This blog is written by Miriam Amies, Engagement Coordinator, University of Manchester Students’ Union. It originally appeared as a case study in HEPI’s report Homeward Bound: Defining, understanding and aiding ‘commuter students’ by David Maguire and David Morris.
Since 2014 the University of Manchester Students’ Union has been running the Off-Campus Students Project. The project was started after a piece of research highlighted how low retention rates and poor student experiences were common themes among off-campus students. Consequently, we set up the project to focus on living-at-home students (or commuter students), which has come to include mature students, student parents and student carers.
In order to provide better support for these students and enhance their student experience, a permanent full-time position was funded by the University of Manchester to sit in the Students’ Union. This role has proved vital in having a dedicated point of contact for live-at-home students. Since 2014, the Students’ Union has introduced numerous interventions to improve university life for live-at-home students including: representative roles for students; support guides; a living-at-home students’ society; improved common room spaces; and regular tailored events.
The most successful of these events has been the Living at Home Students Residential, which has supported over 250 students in making friends the week before they begin their studies. The residential gives students the opportunity to build their confidence and form friendships while taking part in a variety of informative and fun workshops. These friendships impact hugely on students’ sense of belonging which has been proven to correspond significantly to students’ wellbeing and academic outcomes.
‘It made me feel a lot more confident about meeting people at university and participating in student life.’ – First year Engineering Student, 2018
‘I’m really glad this event was held. Before it, I was really nervous about starting university, but I went home not being able to wait till it started.’ – First year Law Student, 2018
94 per cent of students who attended felt more part of the student community after the Residential – 2018