Back in-person for the first time since 2019, the CUBO 2022 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.
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 back to the sector.
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.
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.
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, businesswoman, University Chancellor, regulator and tireless advocate for diversity and compassion.
Baroness Floella was also the guest of honour at the glittering 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.
According to Executive Director, Jan Capper, 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 very much in evidence. She said:
“The Conference provided a timely forum for discussing the challenges for campus services post-pandemic, whether hospitality supply chains, general staff shortages or the impact of agile working on footfall.
“But it was also business as usual, with lots of learning and networking to help universities to optimise service delivery and efficiency, enhance their campus experience and develop revenue earning activities to bring much needed income.”