UPP-sponsored report calls for more support for ‘commuter students’

The Government and higher education institutions should do more to support commuter students – who live away from campus and often in the parental home – according to a new report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).

Sponsored by University Partnerships Programme (UPP), the UK’s leading provider of on-campus student accommodation infrastructure and support services, ‘Homeward Bound: Defining, understanding and aiding commuter students’ has been written by Professor David Maguire, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich, and David Morris, the Vice-Chancellor’s Policy Officer at the University of Greenwich.

The paper considers the experiences of students who live in the parental home during university. They have poorer outcomes than those who move away from home and are less engaged and satisfied with their academic experiences.

For example, almost one-in-ten (9 per cent) of commuter students say they would not have entered higher education if they could make their decision again, which is higher than for any other group.

Jon Wakeford, Group Director of Strategy and Communications at UPP said: “Universities and student accommodation providers need to continue to enhance the student experience and journey, to support the creation of sticky campuses and student communities which position students to achieve their full potential.

“As a sector, we must better understand the requirements of commuter students to ensure all students can access a rounded, interactive and immersive experience.”

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said: “Tackling the challenges commuter students face is not rocket science and it doesn’t even need to cost much. But it does need a commitment to considering their needs across all of a university’s policies. The overall goal must be to help commuter students integrate and succeed.”

The report finds that commuter students are more likely to be first-in-family students, to come from a lower-income household, to be mature students and to have an ethnic minority background.

At 10 universities, over half the students live in the parental or guardian home, including City University London, the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Bradford.

Also, that institutions with a lower proportion of commuter students are more likely to achieve higher student satisfaction scores.

The report includes five case studies – including the University of Manchester, Staffordshire University and Anglia Ruskin University – which explain how they support their commuter students.

The report ends with recommendations for policymakers and universities. It proposes that the Post-18 Education and Funding Review should ensure concerns about the cost of living are not restricting students’ choices on where to live.

It suggests that the Teaching Excellence Framework and other assessments of universities should consider the proportion of each university’s students who commute.

The report also proposes that higher education institutions should help commuter students – by adapting induction, re-organising timetables, creating online support communities for commuter students and re-thinking the use of their space and improving facilities aimed at commuter students. It also suggests they should implement ride-share schemes and focus on travel safety, as well as providing co- and extra-curricular activities during the day and early evening.