accommodation

How Will Students Live and Learn in the Future? #HEFutures

Last week, I attended the launch of “Living and Learning in 2034” [PDF] about the future of higher education. I was part of the project team, so I didn’t want to miss the event!

The report looks at how the student experience could change in coming years and considers the future wants and needs of students under a number of scenarios.

Visions of the future. Not quite like this... (photo by seemann)

Visions of the future. Not quite like this… (photo by seemann)

There was loads of great discussion on the night, including a great question and answer session that you can see highlights from below.

Student Living

Mark Allan, Chief Executive of UNITE Group, kicked off the evening by explaining why student living is at the heart of HE. Why not simply the student, as the government’s 2011 White Paper suggested? Because the experience is broad and all-embracing. Allan said that it’s important to try to understand and interpret future student interests, especially since students are not all the same.

While there is a current trend of seeing university as a necessity for employability and future success, that doesn’t mean everyone looks to higher education in this way. It also doesn’t mean the future will play out this way. However, this document does recognise current trends coming into play and uses them as a base (ten key trends are described in the report).

Study Patterns and Ethos

Paul Harris, Group Strategy and Commercial Director at UNITE, then talked about the prospect of new stakeholders making a huge impact on the higher education sector in coming years. It is not clear where that will take matters, he explained, because there are already fundamental uncertainties that will make an impact on HE futures.

He also questioned whether shorter and more intensive study patterns were on the horizon. Three year degrees may be the norm now, but shifting needs may speed development of 18-month and two-year courses.

Harris concluded with a strong point on ethos. While general attitudes within society are not always the most obvious consideration, they are a key issue that can make a huge impact, both nationally and globally.

We respond to each other and are aware of opinions that are forming. As such, a local economy could be booming or busting, but the final say on how that is perceived could be down to how the public react and respond to the circumstances. Even a bleak economic outlook can be played positively, so it would be wrong to ignore the ethos in society.

Ruled by Technology

One highlight from the event was one student’s dystopian vision of what could occur if technology pushed our minds (and our time) further away from our control. Does technology drive people or do people drive technology?

An abridged version of the student story can be found in the report. I told Cameron, the author, that I found his portrayal vivid and amusing. However, I continued, I’d stop laughing if his story became a reality.

Continue the Discussion

The end of the evening saw some brilliant questions from the floor. It helped the idea that the document is very much a living discussion. Among the questions and subsequent answers on the night were:

Might students in the future want to study in more than one place in the world?
Climate change may force people to stay closer to home in the future, forcing the hand on this one. But if travel continues to happen as it is, some students may prefer to get a range of experiences nationally and even around the globe. What we see as modular today may expand to single modules in several different institutions, but all part of a particular qualification.

Which scenario is currently most likely to play out?
We have no reliable crystal ball. Even as the report was being researched, opinions on the most likely scenario seemed to be changing. In addition, there’s nothing to say that different parts of the country could see different scenarios based on local circumstances.

These scenarios each impact attitudes to education and lifelong learning. Will universities plot out possibilities based on each scenario?
The hope is that the conversation will continue and expand. We must be prepared for many outcomes and it would not be sensible to assume a single course, no matter how obvious it appears to someone. Ignoring possible risks is a risk in itself.

Students discussing accommodation on TheStudentRoom focus very much on value for money and location. How will this change in the future, if at all?
If environment can bring more success, value will be drawn out and noticed. Success means different things and that can be drawn out from a person’s environment. That hasn’t been cracked yet in this country and there are many opportunities.
With £9k fees, students are now looking much more closely at what type of experience they want. Is it employer based, international, lifelong and learning focused, or something deliberately unique to a person? Universities in the United States are focusing on the student experience a great deal at the moment and some pointers could be taken from there. However, with spiralling costs, it is important to also be careful.

Your Thoughts?

A blog has been set up for the report, which will feature more ideas and content, over at hefutures.wordpress.com. There is already a graphic showcasing four of the possible students of the future.

What is your vision of the future? Leave a comment here or tweet your thoughts with the hashtag #HEFutures.

Off Campus Living: Another Learning Curve

Nottingham is helping students to embrace life off campus. The university is giving students advice on what they need to be aware of when living elsewhere, which should help not just the students, but also the local residents.

From the Press Office:

“…student ambassadors will be out with representatives from partner agencies to speak to student residents about waste management, crime and fire prevention and being a good neighbour. Following on from this door-to-door activity, both permanent residents and student residents will be invited to local community centres to share coffee and cake and get to know each other.”

I like this idea. Many freshers find it hard enough to live alone for the first time on campus. Moving into a private rental property is another learning curve, which can lead to problems that could have been handled far better with a bit of help and forewarning.

I’d love to hear what other universities are up to when helping students to integrate with the local community when living in off-campus accommodation.

But would the neighbours like it? (photo by Walter Parenteau)

But would the neighbours like it? (photo by Walter Parenteau)

Living Together Through the Years – Top Tips From Fresher to Finalist

How you experience living with others depends on what year you’re in at uni.

Everything changes each time you move somewhere new. Situations, workload, location, friendships.

Since it’s the start of another academic year, I’ll run through some tips and experiences for each year. Just when you think you’ve got communal living sussed, you’re thrown into a brand new set of circumstances.

photo by David Reece

photo by David Reece

Fresher Year

Support those not settling in so well

I wish I’d done this better. I was experiencing loads of new stuff myself, but I could have tried harder to help integrate those who were finding life away from home tough.

In my first year, one housemate was torn apart from being away from family and it seemed only a matter of time before they would leave. It didn’t take long. But in that short space of time, I could have done more to reach out and show a friendly face. I tried once or twice, but I wasn’t consistent, and that’s key.

Work as a team ESPECIALLY when one or two won’t pull their weight

You could easily adopt a ‘down tools’ attitude when one person isn’t willing to get involved in cleaning and other little jobs. But that makes it worse for everyone. Don’t choose to live with mess and muck as a matter of principle.

Start a conversation. Be kind when you speak to them about the situation. Anger will only make matters worse.

And don’t make it a five-against-one showdown either. Before having a house meeting to vent on that single subject, take a soft approach. One or two housemates could have a quiet word first to find out how things are and discuss the situation constructively. Gently does it.

If you’re lucky enough to have cleaners, you may not have these issues. But please spare a thought for whoever is making good your mess.

Prepare to learn a lot in a short space of time

If you’ve never lived with others, especially a bunch of strangers, you’ve got your work cut out. Some positive stuff, some negative.

Use this time as a learning experience, as you do with your degree work. You’ll face surprises, but don’t react too quickly (y’know, unless it’s a fire, in which case GET OUT!!!). Let each situation sink in and make a measured response.

Branch out beyond your own space

No matter what your living situation, university lets you find all sorts of new people. Now is the time to make new friends, connections and contacts. You don’t have to stick with the people you’ve been placed with in housing. While it helps to be on positive terms with them, there are many more opportunities to make new friends from the outset. Make the most of it.

Learn how to hack your life

Washing, cleaning, and admin. Delightful! It’s no surprise so many students ignore stuff like this until it’s crucial. If it’s not the end of the world, it can be left.

But now is the best time to learn how to make life work for you without resorting to professional help (i.e. Mum & Dad).

Take your laundry, for instance. Washing machines look daunting. They have loads of dials and buttons. But it’s not difficult. At all. I used to panic about temperatures, times, spin speeds, and all sorts of settings just to wash my clothes. In my first year, I only washed my own clothes in an emergency. Most of the time, I just got others to do it (yes, parents again).

This was a mistake. I should have taken responsibility much sooner. Five to ten minutes is all it takes to understand what’s going on. That includes looking up what all the cleaning symbols mean on clothes. You’re welcome. [What, that’s not enough? You want a printable PDF of those symbols now? Oh, go on then!]

So long as the clothes get washed, it doesn’t really matter. Most stuff goes at 30 degrees (40 degrees is the norm, but uses more energy and often isn’t needed) and most stuff can have a good old spin session without worry. Those laundry symbols come in useful to find out those odd items that need special attention. Remember those ones and move on!

So this isn’t much about hacking, more about dealing with the issues from the outset. But it’s such a rare treat that your advanced work will seem like hacking to much of the world around you.

Just be aware that you’ll be in demand as the guru to go to…

Second Year

Typically the year when you branch out to private accommodation if you haven’t already.

If you’re living with more new people, the first year tips apply. Read those first.

For the following tips, I’ll assume you’re living mainly with people you know and that you’ve chosen to live with.

These are good times, but you still need to be mindful. Even friends can be difficult to live with when they’re under your feet 24/7.

photo by Ethan Moore

photo by Ethan Moore

Respect the place

This goes without saying, no matter where you live. But some student accommodation through a private landlord may look weathered and worn from heavy use by other students over the years.

That’s no reason to treat your place without care.

Also, inform the landlord of any problems. Don’t leave them to get worse. If the landlord isn’t helpful, try speaking to your Students’ Union or student services for more advice.

Walls are even thinner

Noise can be a problem. Why? Because you have different deadlines, you come in at different times (including very late at night), you have different tastes in music, you have various ‘romantic’ situations, and so on. Just remember that you’re not the only one in the house. The occasional lapse is forgiveable. Don’t make it more than that.

Have rotas

You’re unlikely to find a way to give each person the same responsibility for particular tasks, especially if they are unpleasant ones.

A rota helps everyone pull their weight and allows you to keep on top of the most important household tasks.

Little and often. That works magic. When you leave stuff, it piles up and gets worse. A few minutes here and there makes a big difference over time. So, little and often.

Understand extreme personality traits

Some people are more fussy about cleanliness than others. It’s not unusual to live with extremes. While one shrugs at massive mess, another gasps at a fleck of dust.

It’s a difficult road to travel, so prepare. And listen. And seek solution at the earliest possibility.

Failing that, seek compromise.

Whatever happens, try to steer away from outright household battles. They’re ugly. You don’t want them.

Pay bills on time

Especially ones where it’s in a single housemate’s name. If bills are all inclusive or you’re all responsible for your own shares, that’s wonderful. If not, please PLEASE do the right thing and pay when you’re meant to. Don’t be responsible for giving someone else financial grief.

Final Year

I was a Senior Student, so I went back to university accommodation. But being in my final year, the game changed and I was working on my dissertation among other things.

I didn’t hide away though. I went out a lot more.

Whatever your circumstances, a few things are different about your final year, because you’re closer to the end of your degree.

photo by _bernd_

photo by _bernd_

Be selfish

You need to knuckle down. If you haven’t already made changes, now is the time. Don’t be swayed to go out when you’ve got work to do. Make decisions for yourself and have clear reasons why that’s your choice.

You may need more of your own space. If you need to make your room off-limits, make it clear why. You’re not being anti-social, you’re being sensible. Of course you’d love to spend every waking moment having a laugh with your mates. But it’s not practical.

Have downtime

You may be busy and getting your selfish groove on, but you need to find some time with your housemates.

There’s something wrong when the people you’re living with forget you’re there…

Continue washing, tidying and organising

The odd jobs are the first to go when you’re trying to find time to fit everything in.

Bad move. You waste time living in a mess. It’s impossible to live when you can’t find anything, you’ve got nothing clean to wear, and everything is a general state.

I went to the laundrette on Sunday mornings, very early. I knew nobody would be around that way. I’d take some work to get on with while my clothes were being washed. The best way to avoid temptation is to leave your phone in your room. At a laundrette, it’s the only thing left in your way between work and procrastination.

With no phone to hand, the prospect of doing reading and coursework is (hopefully) better than staring at a spinning machine for an hour or two.

Final Thoughts

When you live with others, you have to take care of them. And yourself.

Sometimes it’ll be tough. You’re trying to work with the situation while it feels like others are messing you about.

Other times it’ll be brilliant. The group dynamic will work just right.

So you’re bound to go through all sorts of emotions, highs and lows. When things are good, cherish it and don’t take it for granted. When things go wrong, know that you will get through it.

For more tips, check out my 20 hints for living with others. Good luck!