Navigation Toggle Icon

Q&A with Claire Barber

10 April 2024

Claire Barber, Group Asset Management Director, joined Unite Students in January 2023. Here, she discusses the year’s key asset management work and major projects planned for 2024.

You can find out more about our asset management projects here.  


What were your aims for 2023 and how are these continuing into 2024?
To create a strong pipeline, be very clear on what we’re doing and spend the time understanding the buildings so we can create the best possible offer for the customer.

In 2024, we’re making our biggest ever investment into building improvement projects. We’re doing this in a way that’s carefully thought through, so we’re spending money sensibly. It is about making the right level of investment, which will be different for each building. It’s about setting ourselves up for success in the future.

The team has been working to identify an asset management pipeline. This includes the assets we want to invest in, how we could potentially segment our offer to appeal to different types of students and the level of return the investment would create.

Why do we need to invest?
It is important we provide students with value for money, and this requires investment in our buildings. I am leading the business’s estate investment programme, which will see investment into our estate over the next five to seven years to ensure we deliver a portfolio that we are proud of and makes us the home of choice for students.

How does design and sustainability tie into our asset management Initiatives projects?
We are trying to take a holistic approach to investment in our properties, so any projects identified, be these value-add asset management initiatives (refurbishments or extensions), estates work, fire safety – we want to link it altogether, so we only impact the customer once. In all our projects, sustainability is of paramount importance and we have a clear path to net zero carbon by 2030.

There is a planned programme of works to achieve this. We’re developing a matrix of specifications with our new generation design specification, which is still being developed and tested.

This includes redesigned kitchens, geared more towards our students having space to socialise and eat together. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but there will be a clear evolution of the Unite Students look and feel, including amenity space, which you can see in our new builds such as our 705-bed Morriss House in Nottingham.

What has our work in 2023 meant for our stakeholders?
From a student perspective, our work is important because it enhances their experience. Particularly with the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens. But we’re also thinking more about how students experience the spaces they’re in, so we’re being more considered and thoughtful about how they can meet as a group in a flat. We’ve also tried to understand what amenity space is well used in our buildings to meet students’ needs, for example, smaller study areas.

This year we have focused our investment in projects in three of our strongest markets – London, Birmingham, and Edinburgh. Oak Brook Park in Birmingham needed investment, given its age and increasing student expectations around quality. Similarly with The Bridge House in Edinburgh – it’s an impressive location and great market, so our investment has a big impact on how the brand is seen. The Bridge House also underwent a cladding project at the same time, so the building has been completely transformed both internally and externally.

What will be the major works in 2024?
Our focus in 2024 will be on two properties in Glasgow, subject to the relevant consents, and another in Bristol.

All three are positioned in incredible locations. Work is also ongoing in some of our existing properties in London, as well as broader investment in fire safety improvements in properties around the country.


Read more about from Claire Barber here.

Like what you read?

Click the sign up button to receive updates from us. 

Choose from the topics you’re most interested in, or our Higher Education newsletter, in which we share a selection of our latest research, blogs, podcasts and video content about student accommodation and wider student life.

You can unsubscribe or update your preferences at any time. Just click the link at the bottom of any email you receive from us or let us know by emailing

Sign up

Areas of interest(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.