Summer Conference - Embracing Opportunity

5-7 July 2023
University of Glasgow


Summer Conference

5-7 July 2023

Conference Round-Up

The Covid-19 pandemic caused universities to make critical decisions never faced before, in many cases resulting in changes of mindset, attitude, practices, direction and behaviour.  Since then, the Ukraine crisis, political uncertainty, the rising cost of living and environmental concerns continue to dominate headlines and influence opinion.

Against this backdrop, our ability to adapt to dynamic environments through strategy, tactics, innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurial leadership can enable us to identify and embrace opportunity.

In Glasgow, we discussed and explored what we can do individually and collectively for our universities and sector to deliver improved outcomes, economic and social value.

Impressive keynotes hit the mark

As a former director of student recruitment and marketing, Rachel Sandison, Deputy Vice Chancellor, External Engagement and Vice Principal - External Relations, University of Glasgow began by calling for more professional services representation around the HE top table.

Under the strapline “the best university for the world”, Rachel described UoG’s values in action – on climate change, reparative justice, and creating long term, equitable and sustainable partnerships. She recognised the contribution of commercial services to the university, citing the success of the print unit, ambitious accommodation strategy, innovative catering subsidiary model, nursery and great sports facilities.

Next, Andrew Murphy shared learnings from his illustrious career with the John Lewis Partnership, from the hilarious letter that landed him the job to growing market share during the pandemic, in an absorbing talk peppered with invaluable tips for senior leaders. 

The sustainability panel moderated by Charlotte Bonner of EAUC then discussed where to make the biggest impact in the supply chain, embedding a culture and motivating staff and students, tapping into academic expertise, the materiality of spend and green finance.

Business futurist Kate Ancketill set out the context - GenZ has new priorities shaped by the pandemic – and the key five-year trends: 3rd spaces as a third way for freedom and informality outside of instituted forms of sociability (home, work...), wellness and sustainability at the heart of all services, localism and community, ultimate convenience and AI – all illustrated with ground-breaking examples from industry and international HE.

The student living experience was examined in new research from GSL and CUBO, exploring national trends and the key drivers of satisfaction, as well as how different international cohorts rate, choose and experience their accommodation.

As the closing keynote, Lord Bilimoria made a compelling case for the importance of higher education, the UK’s success and international reputation, and the value of international students to a nation’s universities, economy and future place on the world stage.  We also learned from this extraordinary student entrepreneur how Cobra beer got its name…

Breakout sessions tackle key issues and share best practice

Workshops included the future of hybrid conferences, linking sport to academic success, apprenticeships as an answer to the hospitality recruitment challenge, career progression for leaders in campus services, getting the most out of mentoring, and dynamic leadership in commercial services. There was a preview of the Unite Students 2023 Applicant Index Survey and a look at a new PBSA delivery model at Ulster University, Embedding EDI at the University of Sheffield, co-production with students at UCL, a data-led review of vendor-university innovation with Kinetic, and a new approach to managing conduct at Coventry University.

Members also discussed of the influence of commercial services in HE, sharing challenges and solutions that will be reviewed by the CUBO Executive.

Time for networking

An exhibition of 37 CUBO partner suppliers provided a wide range of solutions for campus services and there was plenty of time for networking with university and supplier colleagues during breaks and at the social night at Glasgow’s SWG3.

Showcasing commercial services best practice

The conference concluded with the 2023 CUBO Awards, a celebration of the amazing work by commercial services teams across the UK and Ireland to support students and enhance the campus experience.


“Magnificent surroundings, good food, relevant exhibitors and high calibre speakers, overall a really well organized and fulfilling event, thank you CUBO.” Mark Errington, Associate Director, Campus Operations, University of Southampton

“An enlightening and enlivening two days of excellent speakers, relevant workshops and opportunity to meet up with both new and familiar colleagues - proud to be working in the HE sector.” James Cornewall-Walker, Head of Catering & Hospitality, Queen Mary University of London

“For those of us providing services to students in Higher Education, CUBO is a must. Insight into the sector, great networking opportunities and most importantly, sharing best practice are my main takeaways. I would definitely recommend regular attendance.” Kereen Turner, Customer Service Manager, Derby Student Living

“An excellent opportunity to hear more about trends within the sector and trends affecting the sector - as well as an enjoyable way to meet professional services colleagues from across the UK.” Gordon Hodge, Head of Conferencing & Events, University of Strathclyde

“As a first-time attendee I was impressed at the amount and breadth of commercial sessions packed into a tight schedule. A great opportunity to make some new contacts and share experiences and some key takeaways for implementation on return.” Damon Shaw, Head of Commercial Enterprises, Leeds Trinity University


CUBO Summer Conference Image Gallery





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