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2019 Winter conference

Visioning The Future

2019 Winter Conference Round-up

The future of campus and commercial services has never been more important, as universities get set for further political change and future generations of students....

Some 100 university and partner delegates gathered in 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 today’s and tomorrow’s students.

With delegates holding senior roles in commercial and campus services, the conference programme took a strategic look at the students of the future, sustainability in universities, student accommodation, the political landscape, performance nutrition and sustainable business modelling.

High- profile speakers included Professor Peter Mathieson, Vice Chancellor of The University of Edinburgh, Mark Fawcett (CEO of ‘We are Futures’), Dave Gorman, Director, Department for Social Responsibility & Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh, respected business author Neil Gaught, and Helenor Gilmour, Director of Insights at Beano for Brands (Beano Studios).

Research updates from UCAS, HEPI and Unite Students substantiated the key themes debated at the conference, including universities’ adaptability towards important issues such as climate change, gender neutrality, sustainability and changing campus experiences, and how evolving and smart technologies of the future are set to shape these.

What we learned:

• that Generation Alpha will be young activists, digital masters and creative entrepreneurs with a compulsion to question everything while looking to drive change.

• that over 75% of students feel the government has let them down over Brexit. The majority of students want to stay in Europe and are prepared to vote tactically and be active on this issue, while 41% also feel the government should be paying more in relation to student fees.

• That universities need to ‘get visual’ with messages, let students do the reviewing, and embrace smart technologies, online portals and social apps such as Instagram to get messages across.

• That at least 50% of students believe gender doesn’t matter, and while campuses are already moving towards gender neutrality by modifying services and features, there is a huge opportunity for CUBO members to learn from sharing best practice.

• how the HE sector can make a difference when it comes to climate change - a topic close to students’ hearts. Already, we are seeing a marked increase in plant-based menus and veganism, but there is more to do on emissions, estate assets and plastic waste - by 2050, it is estimated there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, a shocking thought.

• that while students have modest ambitions for the future, they are under immense pressure to achieve these and university accommodation of the future needs to prioritise well-being, affordability, blended communities and experiences, with residential life programmes evaluated by outcomes, not inputs”.

“We learned a great deal 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.”
Julie Barker, CUBO non-executive director.

Over the two days, there was plenty time for networking, meeting new and existing suppliers and visiting the host university campus.

We finished the conference with a charity cycling competition that saw delegate and exhibitors paired up to see who could pedal the furthest distance (on static bikes!) in five minutes. The challenge raised over £500 for Student Minds and made for a fun end to the conference.


College & University Business Officers
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