Hayley Mintern from MRG asks Stewart Moore Chief Executive of CRM five questions about their operational strategy and life after coronavirus lockdown
How have you adapted the business during the pandemic in order to support the students?
Our priority was to keep our buildings operational and our residents safe and well. Where possible, we adapted all our communications with our students into their native language. We allowed residents to leave early and we personally spoke to anyone remaining, giving them assurances that we would continue to be there for them. Having properties across Europe allowed us to learn some key lessons on early on and be ahead of the game.
We are fortunate that over the last few years we have heavily invested in our online platforms andwhere easily able to move our central teams to work from home, yet still offer a valued support for our students
When do you anticipate the road to recovery will begin? Do you have a proposed moving in dates for the new academic year?
Ultimately, we take our lead from our university partners and the government on this, however we are working towards term for many of our residents beginning in September. We are looking at move in weekend taking a slightly different shape with the use of technology to create booking slots, online paperwork and temporary structures that will allow social distancing measures. We are doing everything possible to ensure that we can offer that same quality and experience we have done over the years.
We are still on track with bookings and will be working with the students to be flexible as possible.
Do you believe that the current situation has raised the profile of student accommodation?
Yes however the press coverage hasn’t always been positive, with issues around rent charges. For me the biggest highlight is the positive work that our sites teams play in the student experience. We currently have 40% of students living on sites across the country. We are home to many students, and we continue to ensure they have somewhere safe and secure that they can call home. Across our 16,000 rooms we have had less than 5 cases due to effective measures we have put in place.
Do you think the pandemic will affect the UK’s reputation as a ‘go to’ destination for overseas students?
In the short term yes we will see an impact, especially form the Chinese Market as a number of students are unsure if they will be able to enter the country. However, the UK still has a world leading reputation and students will continue to want to study here. We are certainly seeing positive indications across our communication platforms.
What is the key lesson you have learned from this pandemic?
Plan, Plan and Plan. If you think you have planned for all eventualities you haven’t. We have moved to daily management team meetings which has enabled us to adapt quickly, we have certainly learnt the important of communication. Every decision we have made has been centred around the student’s welfare. Our teams have ensured that all our buildings continue to be operational and whether we have 1 or 1,000 students they are able to call us home. There will ultimately be lots of lesson that come out from this, and certainly an opportunity to rewrite the rule book.
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