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Interview: Meet Jay Khan, Head of Operations for London

3 July 2024

With Will White stepping into a new role at Unite Students, we’re delighted to introduce Jay Khan as our new Head of Operations for London.

New to the sector but with a wealth of experience in operations, Jay talks us through his first impressions of the Higher Education sector, how his past experience has brought him to purpose-built student accommodation and how he plans to create a culture of excellence in our buildings.


Q: You joined Unite Students in April – what made you apply for the Head of Operations role in London, and how have your previous experiences led you here?

A: The opportunity to influence the environments and experiences of 15,000 students, giving them the best foundation for success, is a profound honour. I’m motivated by the potential I have to make a positive impact on their lives; it gives me a sense of purpose and responsibility.

My career has always revolved around creating outstanding experiences for people. From my first role as a Customer Service Manager for British Airways, to heading up passenger strategy at St Pancras International station, and most recently overseeing five hospitals as Chief Operating Officer – these experiences have taught me the value of service excellence, operational efficiency, and an empathetic approach to management.


What are your first impressions of working at Unite Students?

The team are incredible – they’re so committed and passionate. The enthusiasm and energy that I’ve seen every day so far is inspiring, and it’s evident that everyone here deeply cares about our purpose.


You’ve been getting out and about to meet our university partners – what’s your experience of Higher Education so far?

It’s a privilege being part of the sector – I’m currently studying for an MBA at Middlesex University myself. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Higher Education, but it’s inspiring to see up close how universities shape the leaders of tomorrow. They play such an important role in our wider communities and have such a significant impact on local economies.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that, while they have their core purpose of education in mind, they’re really thoughtful about creating a bespoke experience for their students. I didn’t expect to see such a variety of focuses and priorities out there.


What have you learned about purpose-built student accommodation since joining Unite Students, and how has it compared to what you expected when you took the role?

Being new to the sector I’m quite impressed by the thought and care that goes into designing purpose-built student accommodation. I thought it was just another building, but every detail is crafted with the students’ best interests in mind. Everyone gets together to create an environment where a student can thrive, where we make it as close to and as comfortable as their home. The level of thought that goes into that has blown me away.


What are your core principles when it comes to working with universities or helping your teams deliver a great student experience?

True partnership is at the heart of our work with universities. We work with universities to create a holistic and enriching experience for their students, giving them a home where they can grow personally as well as academically and pick up those key life skills. Working together with our university partners helps to support their journey.

With my teams, I embrace the philosophy of ‘servant leadership’ – where my role is to serve, empower and support them in our mission about how we create a great experience for our residents. If I can put my team’s needs first and give them the tools and encouragement they need to deliver that experience, we can create a culture of excellence and dedication. This approach ensures that every single team member feels valued and inspired, which drives our shared vision.


Finally, what’s one thing that you’re really passionate about when it comes to student accommodation?

For me, it’s all about making sure our accommodation plays a part in each student’s journey, and that it’s a supportive and empowering environment. That’s crucial. We’re not just offering a place to stay, we’re also contributing to their growth and success. It’s an honour that I can play a part in that, helping to set them up for a bright and successful future. I find that prospect really rewarding.


Want to know more about our Heads of Operations? Meet Vic Simmons and Lettie Hubbuck, our other two Heads of Operations, in our February interview.

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