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News & Press: Latest News

CUBO Winter Conference visions the future.

09 December 2019  
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CUBO WINTER CONFERENCE 2019: The best way to change the future is to create it!

The future of commercial services on campuses has never been so important, as UK’s universities get set for Generation Alpha and as students become more diverse, more challenging and more sociable.... 

Over 100 CUBO’ delegates and partners attended the 2019 Winter Conference at the University of Edinburgh to ‘Vision the Future’ – a future which sees universities engaging with passion, optimism and increasing immersion in smart technology and social media to keep up with ‘Generation Screensaver’ and the ongoing transformation of next tier students.

Delegates praised the content as highly strategic and giving valuable differentiation of CUBO from more operationally orientated associations in the sector.

Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and VC of The University of Edinburgh, was joined by high- profile speakers including Dave Gorman, Director for Social Responsibility & Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh; Mark Fawcett, founder of ‘We are Futures’ (originally the National Schools Partnership); respected business author Neil Gaught and Helenor Gilmour, Director of Insights at Beano for Brands.

Key themes debated at the conference were all linked to generational profiling and universities’ adaptability to important issues such as climate change, gender neutrality, sustainability, changing campus’ experiences and smart technologies.

Non-executive director for CUBO, Julie Barker, reinforced that this year’s content was powerful and relevant amid continuing uncertainty in the higher education sector.  She said:

 “We learned a great deal over the past two days and got into the mindsets of students and the upcoming traits of Generation Alpha to ‘vision the future’ in a way that has really helped members look at the student experience afresh."

 “We learned that young adults are contradictory, and have a tendency to unhappiness and therefore will put happiness in their career as a priority.  They respond to and value optimism.  Generation Alpha is a fascinating age.  Generational profiling indicates that they will be young activists, digital masters and creative entrepreneurs with a compulsion to question everything, while looking to drive change (source *1)

 “We know that students don’t feel ‘listened to’ by politicians: HEPI’s recent findings showed that over 75% of students feel that the government has let them down in the way it has engaged over Brexit ((source 2).  The majority of students want to stay within the European Union and they are prepared to vote tactically and be active on this issue.   Furthermore, 41% of students also feel that the Government should be paying more in relation to student fees (reference source- HEPI).


“We learned that we need to ‘get visual’ with our messages, and invite students to review what we do.  Students listen to other students and value their reviews.  They expect clear messages and they want to receive them in a way which resonates with their culture – which is increasingly aligned to smart technologies, to online portals and apps.   Universities need to ‘get with it’, and get closer to social feature apps such as Instagram to get their messages across. 


“As gender diversity becomes the norm, universities are increasingly accepting of individualism with at least 50% of students believing that their gender doesn’t matter (source *3).  Campuses are already moving towards gender neutrality, modifying services and features accordingly. Together we can learn from sharing best practice and what success look like.


“We debated how the HE Sector can make a difference when it comes to climate change.   There is no question that this topic is close to students’ hearts and we know that we can change behaviour through motivation.  Already, we are seeing a marked increase in plant based menus and veganism, but there is a great deal more to do across emissions, estate’ assets and plastic waste. By 2050, it is estimated there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish - a fact that is unpalatable to us all.


“In general, students have modest ambitions for the future, but make no mistake that they are under immense pressure to achieve these.  When looking university’ accommodation of the future, we should be prioritising well-being, affordability, a blended community and experiences, and we should consider our residential life programmes by outcomes, not inputs”.



*1      Getting to know Gen Alpha (Beano for Brands)

*2      HEPI – 2019 Election Briefing

       *3      HEPI – 2019  Why British Students Live Away From Home and Why it Matters 

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