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With 96% of students saying they have felt stressed at university and 56% feeing stressed constantly*, all aspects of the student experience need to have student mental wellbeing at the heart. We are now seeing a shift in building design to put student wellbeing centre stage and accommodation providers assuming a supporting role for student mental health.
Studentminds.org.uk identifies the key role PBSA and halls of residence student accommodation providers have in developing a sense of community, which in turn helps promote wellbeing and a sense of belonging.
In fact, this role cannot be underestimated: “… students who feel they are integrated into their flat with other students are less likely to consider dropping out of university.”**
So, how do accommodation providers meet this incredibly important demand for community focused accommodation?
Key to any build is enabling student interaction – physical connectivity – to help prevent students feeling isolated. So, hubs are incredibly important, whether that might be a shared learning space or communal area in halls. Having rooms facing in halls, rather than a long line of doors, also encourages more interaction through being a more sociable design.
Gone are the days of student accommodation in digs with no heating, subsidence and baths being rationed (no showers!) because it took so long to heat the water, as was my experience some years ago! Now home comforts play an important role in tackling home sickness, and students are now demanding better accommodation, with a trend for third years to return to high spec halls or looking for a home from home.
While the kitchen remains a key central social hub, you can now find cinema and karaoke rooms, spa areas and even basketball courts in PBSAs to encourage social interaction.
Moving my son into halls just a few days ago, his first priority was wiring up all his tech and making sure the internet worked. Making a student connected is paramount, whether in terms of tech or with their space, community and fellow housemates.
*Thestudenthousingcompany.com**Neale, I., Piggott, L., Hansom, J., Fagence, S. “Student Resilience: Unite Students Insight Report 2016”. 28. (2016).