Held at Lancaster University during the College & University Business Officers summer conference, prizes recognised six institutions in England, and The University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland.
The University of Bath was awarded the headline Campus Experience of the Year category, with the University of Nottingham recognised in two categories – Excellence in Sports Experience and its sports department recognised for Best Marketing Campaign.
“Many of this year’s entries were examples of innovation to support students during Covid, and the quality of these was exceptional,” Jan Capper, CEO of CUBO, told The PIE.
“The non-academic experience has always been important, but during 2020/21, universities really stepped up to support students in lockdown, whether delivering thousands of meals to those self-isolating, creating a Christmas Day for those unable to travel home, providing additional wellbeing support to combat loneliness, or inventing new virtual social and physical activities to help build connections and friendships.”
Bath stood out as Campus Experience of the Year winner for the range of action it took during the pandemic, she noted, from offering food and drink vouchers, exercise equipment and indoor gardening packs, to encouraging regular testing, online events including language cafes, book clubs and support sessions, and takeaway pop-up outlets.
The university also enabled students unable to travel home in the holidays – but whose flatmates could – to live with others free of charge, Capper continued.
Likewise, the University of Edinburgh’s winning Best Residence Life entry demonstrated a “great example” of cross-university cooperation to help students manage anxiety and re-engage with the Edinburgh community post-pandemic, while the Oxford Brookes University partnership with Gather & Gather and Coop showed “how business and university can work together to deliver support in a crisis, an overall a better food and retail experience and part-time jobs to students”.
CUBO recognised its first honorary membership award to the late Andrew Nightingale, former chair of the UUK/GuildHE Accommodation Code of Practice Governing Board and former director of Estates at the University of Essex.
The posthumous award allowed CUBO to “recognise the huge contribution Andrew made to the introduction and development of the Code… and the respect with which he has been held throughout his long and successful career in the higher education sector”, the organisation noted.
“The non-academic experience has always been important, but during 2020-21, universities really stepped up to support students in lockdown”
Former CUBO Board members David McKown MBE of the University of Sheffield and Jon Greenwood MBE from The University of York were also recognised with honorary memberships.
Other winners included Loughborough University in the Creativity in Catering and Retail category, University of Warwick for Innovation in Student Housing and University of Birmingham for Creativity in Conferencing, Events and Hospitality.
“A huge amount of largely unseen work goes into providing accommodation, food & shops, wellbeing and sports activities, recycling, deliveries, childcare and other services around university campuses,” Capper added.
“During the pandemic, event staff ran vaccination and testing centres, chefs flipped from catered halls to takeaway services, cleaners cleaned despite the personal risk, and residence life teams invented a host of online activities almost overnight. We’re proud to recognise this vital work through the CUBO Awards.”
The full list of winners is available here and a photo gallery from the event here.