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Living Black at University: Our new partnership with CUBO

30 April 2024

We are delighted to announce that the next stage of the Living Black at University Commission will be jointly led by Unite Students and CUBO (College and University Business Officers), as we look to continue the Commission’s work on supporting equity, inclusion and belonging in student accommodation and beyond.

In 2022, Unite Students published Living Black at University – a research report looking at the experience of Black students in UK student accommodation. The report found evidence of racism, cultural insensitivity and exclusion in university and privately run student accommodation, leading to an 18 percentage-point difference in sense of belonging between Black and White students. Three quarters of Black students said that racism had an impact on their mental health.

Within two months of publication, we had launched the Living Black at University Commission, so that we could work collaboratively with the Higher Education sector to take action on the report’s 10 recommendations. Commissioners represented charities like Student Minds, regulators such as the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education and sector bodies including CUBO.

In its first phase, the Commission:

  • Piloted a Black services directory across 23 UK cities, signposting students to services like international supermarkets and Black haircare
  • Published three toolkit resources for the Higher Education sector
  • Held a one-day, sector-wide conference in Newcastle in March 2023 to showcase Commission actions and deliver inclusion training

The actions and learnings from the first phase were shared in a new Commission report in November 2023, available to download here.



Our next phase of the Living Black at University Commission with CUBO

CUBO and Unite Students will jointly lead a new phase of the Living Black at University Commission, and continue working to set a new standard for inclusion and anti-racist practices in student accommodation.

Excitingly, the new partnership will take further national action to support equity, inclusion and belonging in student accommodation and – new for this phase of the Commission – wider campus services across the UK.

We’ll be updating our list of current Commissioners soon so you can find out which organisations are represented on the Commission for its second phase.


What will the Commission focus on in its second phase?

The Commission’s second phase will see further action taken on inclusion in student accommodation and other campus services, such as catering, retail, sport, facilities management and customer services.

Outputs will include further guidance and toolkits, a national conference, a survey of campus services staff and support for greater cultural competence and more inclusive hiring and career development practices within the sector.

In common with the first phase of the Commission, there will be an emphasis on listening to student and working in partnership to create change.


What everyone’s saying…

Carol Thomas, incoming Chair of the Commission, said: “If you could see the smile on my face you would appreciate how thrilled I am. This new partnership and the new phase of the Living Black Commission is a positive shift for the sector. It will provide a framework enabling the sector to contribute to the success of Black students.”

“It is so important for us to continue to create change and take action to support equity, inclusion and belonging,” added Kirsty Woodward, Chair of CUBO. “Whilst the work of Living Black at University was embedded in student accommodation we believe the new partnership between CUBO and Unite Students will see a much wider remit across campus services in the UK, reflecting the portfolios of our members. I am so thrilled that Carol Thomas, the new Chair of the Living Black Commission is also our CUBO Board lead for EDI. The work Carol has done to raise awareness of the issues faced by our Black students is immense.”

And Joe Lister, CEO of Unite Students, was also thrilled to confirm the partnership. “Everyone deserves to feel included, comfortable and safe where they live, and this is especially important for young people living away from home for the first time,” he said. “The Living Black at University research showed that the student accommodation sector has been failing Black students, and we are committed to changing this. I’m delighted that we have an opportunity to continue with this important work in partnership with CUBO.”

Download the Commission’s first phase report here, and read more about the work of the Commission to date from its website.

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