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PURPOSE AND STRATEGY

Creating a Home for Success for students

By providing the right home environment for the students who come to live with us from across the globe each year, we can enable them to achieve the goals and ambitions they aspire to.

To do this we have the right employees, culture and relationships in place.

Our 1,900 employees are committed to the delivery of our Home for Success purpose. Our strong values underpin the way they deliver, day-in, day-out. Our actions as a business are driven by insights from our employees and students, enabling us to work collaboratively with university partners.

We have high visibility over our earnings and operate in a sector which is growing through demographic demand. Our occupancy rates are driven by a mix of contracts with university partners, private accommodation providers and direct-let sales. The marketing we do through our website and agents is enabling us to capture market share from the houses of multiple occupation (HMO) market – an area where we have seen progress in recent years.

The quality, location and scale of our portfolio is a key component in our business model and long term strategy. We align to the strongest universities, delivering solutions which work for them and support their growth ambitions. We are focusing investment in new development in London and prime regional cities.

Listen to Chief Executive Richard Smith talk about the purpose which drives Unite Students: Home for Success:

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OUR STRATEGY

Our strategic objectives

Going to university can be seen as risky to prospective students from the perspective of belonging

DELIVERING FOR OUR CUSTOMERS AND UNIVERSITIES

  • Delivering a best-in-class student experience
  • Investment to enhance our physical estate
  • Front-line service excellence training
  • Investment in our digital capabilities and technology platform
  • Segmentation of our product and service
  • Maintaining our proactive response to cladding risk
International Women's Day #BreaktheBias

ATTRACTIVE RETURNS FOR SHAREHOLDERS

  • Dividend payout of 80% of adjusted EPS
  • Recovery in earnings and return to normalised growth of 6–8% p.a.
  • Return to pre-Covid-19 adjusted EBIT margins
  • Increasing our alignment to the strongest universities
  • Sourcing new growth opportunities through development and University partnerships
  • Disciplined capital management with new capital to pursue growth opportunities
The cost of living crisis is currently impacting on students' finances

A RESPONSIBLE AND RESILIENT BUSINESS

  • Becoming net zero carbon by 2030
  • Creating resource efficient assets and operations
  • Enhancing the health and wellbeing of our employees and students
  • Providing opportunities for all through investment in the Unite Foundation and the Leapskills programme.
  • Raising standards for the student housing sector

CASE STUDY

Our purpose in action during Covid-19

The Covid pandemic amplified the need to support students, particularly those a long way from home; to work closely with university partners and to keep our employees safe. We focused on:

The Unite Foundation has supported more than 500 estranged and care experienced students at university

Student wellbeing

The pandemic amplified the need to support students, particularly those who were a long way from home and unable to travel due to distance or personal circumstances. We have invested in our city teams to ensure they are there when students need them. Our student support teams are available in all cities and work with our Resident Ambassadors, to offer a valuable support network for the students living with us.

  • Over £100 million in financial support to students during the pandemic.
  • All properties remained open and provided support to students.
  • Six dedicated students support teams across the UK.
  • Over 190 Resident Ambassadors recruited.

University Partnerships

Our relationship with university partners strengthened during the pandemic through the actions we took to support students.

We provided valuable research and insight to the highest education sector on student trends and sentiment which informed thinking and planning. For example, our Class of 2021 research highlighted concerns about leaving home and mental health while away. We have enhanced our focus on creating supportive communities, with people on hand to support.

  • Over 60 partnerships with HE institutions.
  • Half of our beds sold under nomination agreements.
  • Four student and parent research projects published during 2020/21.
Informed by Living Black at University, a major report into Black students' experience in UK student accommodation – with research undertaken by Halpin Partnership – Unite Students has launched a national commission in order to respond to the findings and recommendations at a national level.

Employee inclusion

The pandemic created additional pressure for our teams. We focused on keeping our people safe through provision of PPE and through regular Covid-19 updates. There was flexibility for employees to work from home when they needed to. Throughout the pandemic we used an enhanced range of tools and channels to keep our employees engaged, encouraging feedback on how they were feeling and plenty of forums for feedback.

  • Weekly Covid updates.
  • Recruitment of EDI and Wellbeing lead.
  • Launch of new employee engagement forum, Culture Matters
  • Employee engagement score of 75, a slight improvement on the previous year.