Scotland Representative Sarah Pay
Operations Manager - University of St Andrews
What do you enjoy most about working in student accommodation?
I love that each year you have a group of new students who have different priorities and therefore the service is always changing and improving to meet the current cohorts needs. I love being in the Residences at the end of term and seeing our housekeeping staff leaving at the end of the day with chocolates and flowers, the impact our teams have on the students’ lives is so important.
Can you provide details about a specific student accommodation project that you’ve been involved in, that you’re really proud of?
I can think of 2, one a physical new build project and one an initiative that we ran for a couple of years pre-covid. In 2017/2018 we developed 2 small sites, adjacent to existing Residences, bringing online just under 400 rooms. They are now our most popular Residences and we managed to get the mix of social space and room amenities just right. The project was not without its problems and was delivered almost 2 months after our contract start date, we had to come up with a number of contingency plans for the students who had already been allocated to the accommodation. Students eventually moved in and love it. I also had the opportunity to present on the project and the contingency planning at the acuho-I conference in Toronto, which was a real career highlight.
The project which I am particularly proud of, won us the Student Accommodation Team of the Year at the Property Week Student Accommodation Awards. In January 2018 we ran a Student Experience Event for all our Operational Managers. The aim of the event was Team Building, Understanding the Student Journey, Improving Student Experience and Student Satisfaction. Our team all had to apply for accommodation, were allocated and spent the night. We wanted our teams to go through the experience just like a student and identify areas for improvement, sharing best practice and learning from each other. There were a number of successful initiatives that were introduced following the event.
What does ASRA mean to you?
I think my main interactions with ASRA have been at regional meetings and the Conference. It has been great for me as I moved from being an Operational Manager, running a Residence to my current role, overseeing the operations of our 4000 bedspaces. ASRA has created networks for me and introduced me to a range of different professionals. I always learn lots at the Conferences and learning about best practice in other Universities and providers has allowed us to improve our services.
What is your best ASRA memory?
I think they are all conference related – the funfair at Brighton, the dinner at the Titanic Museum in Belfast and the rail Museum in York (my first conference) are hard to top
Thoughts on the future (accommodation)
I think that the sector has been through an incredibly challenging time throughout the pandemic and there will be a period of consolidation as things return to “normal”. There are some real covid positives that we will continue to use in our operations. In Scotland the student accommodation sector will continue to engage with the Scottish Government, and it will be interesting to see the results of the PBSA review and the impact on providers in Scotland.
Full description of roles and responsibilities can be found in the member's area.
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