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Advancing equality and diversity in universities and colleges


Accommodation services

A positive residential environment will help staff and students fulfil their potential. Ensure your accommodation provision supports an inclusive environment.

Estates and accommodation provision can facilitate an inclusive environment. This can be done through removing barriers to inaccessible or inappropriate main campus buildings, circulation areas, accommodation, social spaces and amenities, and teaching and learning environments. It may also require targeted estates and accommodation provision that responds to identified requirements that are not met through existing provision.

For accommodation provision to work effectively for all students, a shared vision to promote an inclusive approach needs to be developed between the various functional areas and organisations that provide services to students. Good communication between estates development and information about student requirements and trends that is held by residential services need to be in place.

Where targeted forms of provision are provided for different groups it will often be necessary to balance the provision against the potential separation of different groups that can result. For example, if an HEI is seeking to meet a request for a kitchen area within accommodation to be designated solely for halal or kosher use, this should prompt consideration of whether new communal spaces should be created to facilitate integration. HEIs increasingly understand the role university-supported social events can play in building a more inclusive environment within residences.

Students with impairments

Students with impairments may have additional accommodation requirements, including any accommodation requirement for personal assistants who assist with getting dressed, washing, etc. Where possible, this would be discussed with the disabled students’ officer and disability services well in advance of the student joining the HEI, who will then liaise with the student accommodation department. The cost of personal assistants, including their accommodation costs, may be met by a student’s local social services department.

Religion and belief in your accommodation

Examples of specific accommodation requests or requirements linked to religion or belief may include the following.

  • Single-sex accommodation. Some HEIs may provide single-sex accommodation, which some students may choose because of their religion or belief. This may need to be considered in relation to an HEI’s aim of promoting integration through the allocation of places. Any accommodation allocations procedure that takes account of a student’s religion or belief should be non-discriminatory, well publicised and transparent.
  • Specific religious accommodation. Some HEIs may provide specific religious accommodation, such as Shabbat accommodation. Shabbat is a day of rest, and for observant Jews specific work is forbidden – this may include work within accommodation, for example turning on light switches, or using electronic keycards or lift buttons. The provision of such accommodation may need to be considered in relation to an HEI’s aim of promoting integration through the allocation of accommodation places. Further details: Union of Jewish Students
  • Shared kitchens. Accommodation may include shared kitchens, where students of different religions and beliefs may have different requirements for food preparation. An HEI may consider, for example, providing different microwaves for vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, which may help students observe their dietary requirements.
  • Health and safety. Certain religious observances (such as the use of candles) may breach health and safety regulations. Students may be encouraged to use local and campus facilities, or to see if alternatives may be used.
Case study: Working towards inclusivity >

At the University of Leeds, various services (including residential and commercial services, the international student office, the equality service and lifelong learning centre) have worked with the students’ union to establish an annual inclusive community award.

This award is presented to the student-run residents’ committee that best demonstrates a track-record of delivering events that bring together diverse groups of students – including students from a range of religions and beliefs – and contributes to an inclusive living environment.

Case study: Providing a residential service >

Sheffield Hallam University offers students a residential support service. The service coordinates a range of pastoral services, including an agreed approach to the management of student behaviour in university accommodation.

The service liaises with external stakeholders in managing student behaviour in the local community and, in conjunction with others, promotes a positive message to students in relation to a range of lifestyle issues.

The main aims of the service are to offer:

  • a single point of contact for students wanting information about services available to them and for parents to discuss any worries they might be having about their children and where they are living
  • a direct, single point of contact within the university, ensuring any issues can be circulated to all those needing the information as soon as possible
  • a point of contact for the communities of Sheffield, usually to help deal with antisocial behaviour problems
  • support for the increasing number of under-18-year-old students
  • an open line of communication regarding any issues students might experience
Case study: Use of referral fee income >

Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) receives a fee from five private accommodation partners for every new student it refers to their accommodation. The money is collected at the start of each academic year, and LJMU is committed by the formal agreements with these partners to ‘utilise such payment(s) towards student facing services’.

The biggest single category of expenditure is staff costs – chiefly the cost of employing senior students in all partner halls, the cost of an extra member of the welfare team to manage these staff and deal with welfare issues connected to and/or arising within the accommodation, and a contribution towards the costs of the university police officer.

More recent initiatives have been focused on assistance for students in hardship, including a limited scheme for lending disadvantaged new students their accommodation deposit, and an accommodation bursary scheme for continuing students.

Case study: Providing a prayer facility >

Following consultation, the University of Sunderland set up a prayer facility in a small, dedicated building on the city campus. The facility is very popular with students, staff, alumni and the wider community. Feedback from users is that the university’s facilities are seen as inclusive, women-friendly and supportive, both in terms of worship and as a social space.

Through this provision, the university is engaging with traditionally harder-to-reach members of the wider community, who increasingly view the university as a place to study and work. This provision is reviewed as city campus work progresses.

Case study: Single-sex accommodation >

A limited amount of single-sex accommodation is available at the University of Glasgow. Students are required to identify a need by selecting the ‘single-sex’ option when completing the accommodation application form.

If a request is received, the university will consider providing Shabbat-relevant accommodation.