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Back in-person for the first time since 2019, the CUBO Summer Conference drew over 170 commercial services and business professionals to Lancaster University for two days of outstanding networking, learning and business meetings to support post-pandemic recovery and strategic planning. It was a chance for many to catch up for the first time in over two years and reconnections between colleagues from universities and partners were much in evidence. There was time to see Lancaster University’s commercial services in operation and hear about its successful civic engagement. On 14 July the hard work of all commercial services teams was celebrated at the glittering CUBO Awards, where nine universities were recognised for outstanding achievement.
Civic engagement, hospitality recovery and student accommodation affordability Opening the conference, Dame Professor Sue Black took delegates through Lancaster University’s successful engagement with the local community, which has been crucial in bringing the £5 billion National Cyber Force centre to Lancashire and for the planned Eden Project North in Morecambe.
A fact-packed keynote from Kate Nicholls MBE of UKHospitality focussed on the continuing challenges on the road to recovery and spelled out the government action needed. Pre-pandemic, the UK hospitality sector contributed £40billion in tax – the entire social care bill. Recovery is happening slowly, and an urgent labour market strategy is needed to bring staff to the sector.
In the final session of the day, a panel of sector experts moderated by Robin Walsh, CUBO Board Member for Housing Codes and Standards, discussed student accommodation affordability. The conversation spanned how far affordability is an issue when cheaper accommodation is often the hardest to fill, how private partners and universities might work more closely to reduce voids and bring down costs, and strategies for giving students more choice and price points. The panel also looked at value for money and contract length, the potential unintended consequences of pressing for increased maintenance loans, and the importance of capital investment in keeping the accommodation portfolio relevant. This is a debate that will run and run, and where universities will need to look at their individual portfolio and local situation.
Day one finished with a relaxed social evening in Lancaster University’s Barker House Farm with local food and drink and Blackpool-inspired fun and games, both indoors and outdoors in the lovely evening sun.
Major events, sustainability, 12 breakout sessions and the legendary Baroness Floella Benjamin Taking Expo in Dubai as a case study and featuring audience interaction, Lego blocks and the University of Birmingham’s involvement in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Professor David Russell from The Russell Partnership Collection opened day two by setting out the key steps involved in delivering successful major events and showing how these can equally be applied to other areas of operation.
Sarah Mukherjee from the IEMA pressed home the urgency of the climate crisis, how every small step taken in private and professional life makes a difference, and why sustainability should be as much part of an employee’s induction as health and safety.
Breakout sessions provided a choice of peer-led case studies, insights and expert advice including: the green flat of the future, supporting staff wellbeing, catering and retail strategy, sustainable waste management, smart lockers and parcel delivery, culture transformation, redesigning and measuring the student journey, the residence life phenomenon, ESG in student accommodation design and the future home of Gen Z.
Highlight of the conference for many was the final keynote by Baroness Floella Benjamin, DBE, DL. Entitled “Facing Adversity with a Smile”, this was the inspirational story of a girl who came to England as a teenager, and who, through discrimination and adversity, became a successful actor, business woman, university chancellor, regulator and tireless advocate for diversity and compassion.
Baroness Floella was the guest of honour at CUBO Awards Night, hosted by TV journalist and Lancaster University alumnus Warren Nettleford in the LICA Building. CUBO honorary membership was awarded to Andrew Nightingale (posthumous), Jon Greenwood and David McKown for outstanding services to HE commercial services, before the winners of the nine CUBO Awards for 2022 were revealed.
The CUBO Summer Conference 2023 takes place at the University of Glasgow between 5th & 7th July.
View all future conferences.
William Wilson, Strategic Development Manager Student Living, Brunel University
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