Navigation Toggle Icon

The stars of Unite Students during the Covid-19 pandemic

25 April 2021

Amid the challenges of the past year, our city teams have gone above and beyond to support the students who live with us, as well as coming up with creative ways to keep students entertained during lockdowns. So, we’re delighted to share with you a few of the finalists and winners from our internal annual Stars Awards, picked from a record-breaking 1,600 nominations across the business.

These employees have truly dedicated themselves to caring for students and making sure they’ve been safe during the Covid pandemic.

[Pictured to the right, L-R: Gar Fox, Haylee Dignam, Lorraine Pippen, Ripon Miah, Yusuf Ogleh]



Our outstanding customer care nominees have gone above and beyond in their approach to welcoming, looking after and supporting students, despite the challenges of the past year.


Haylee Dignam (Service and Sales Advisor, Manchester) – NOMINEE

“For the last six months, Haylee has dominated the student ambassador programme in Manchester. She has run with it during the pandemic, ensuring it works exceptionally well. She is upbeat and full of life, assembling a full squad of great ambassadors through all the extra challenges Covid has thrown our way. The events she has organised have had a great turn out and been beneficial to all involved. She inspires a community feel, because of events like ‘the Great British Bake off’, a ‘Valentine’s day quiz’ and also virtual yoga sessions. She deserves to be recognised for all her efforts, especially as they have helped improve student wellbeing during a tough year.”


Lorraine Pippen (Housekeeper, Bristol) – NOMINEE

“Lorraine goes beyond her job role to care for our students, and cares about the detail. Other team members have been approached by students saying they miss Lorraine when she’s on annual leave. She will leave students little notes that brighten up their days, showing care and understanding to all those around her, especially customers. She is always happy to chat and listen to students, helping to make them feel at home, and she will also highlight to other team members when she thinks someone might be struggling and may need extra help.”


WINNER: Yusuf Ogleh (Service and Sales Advisor, Liverpool)

“Yusuf knows what our students want, and what they need. Using his expertise and experience to cut through complex issues, he never loses sight of the best possible outcome for students and he isn’t afraid of handling difficult situations . Described as having the ‘highest level of humanity’ towards our students, Yusuf’s dedication to our Home for Success purpose is truly outstanding.”


We spoke to Yusuf to get some insight into his winning ways…

Q: What’s your favourite part of working for Unite Students?

A: Knowing that I have helped students through the exciting but challenging experience of leaving home for the first time.

What’s one thing you’ve learned about students while working here?

I’ve come to realise that there is no typical student – every student is different in their own way. We’ve built a good relationship between students and the Unite Student Village team by always being there for them and trying to go that extra mile.

Why is it important to you to ensure that students get the best possible care?

This time in their life is so important, with so many brilliant memories made. So we must make sure students get the best care and experiences while living with us. We’ve had many former students come back to just to say hi, and recommend that their friends or siblings book with us.

How does it feel to be recognised for your dedication to our customers during such a challenging year?

It feels amazing – but this could not have happened without the support of the great sales team at Unite Student Village, and the Liverpool city teams such as Safety and Housekeeping, so I’d like to thank them too.



A safety champion is someone whose attitude and behaviour consistently makes sure our customers and teams feel safe and secure, both mentally and physically. They recognise the importance of teamwork and are a natural spokesperson for their team, having the confidence to speak up if something doesn’t feel right around safety.


Ripon Miah (Service and Safety Advisor, London North) – NOMINEE

“Ripon is a valuable and experienced member of the London North team. He always strives for the best and provides great customer service whilst doing so. He ensures a positive, but safe experience is delivered to all our students during their stays with us, raising safety concerns for residents and colleagues. He is also always ready to support the team in an emergency. Through Covid, Ripon would never hesitate to deliver food, shopping and parcels to students whilst they were isolating, and has helped spread the message of good mental health to colleagues and students alike. Ripon will overcome any new challenge, always in a professional way whilst delivering a gold standard of customer service.”


Gar Fox (Service and Safety Advisor, Liverpool) – WINNER

“Gar has a passion for improving mental health – continually offering support and advice to team members and students. Throughout 2020 and 2021, Gar helped identify our top safety and security risks and even contributed to our safe and secure plan for 2021. A true safety champion, Gar knows how to respond effectively during moments of crisis and plays a big part in keeping our teams and students safe here at Unite.”


We caught up with Gar to find out more…


Q: What’s your favourite part of working for Unite Students?

A: The varied and exciting role, as well as working in a supportive and dynamic team.

What’s one thing you’ve learned about students while working here?

One of the biggest changes since I was a student is that mental health is more talked about, especially by young men. The change in attitudes towards mental health is slow, but it is happening, and we need to keep encouraging talking about mental health and removing the stigma attached to it.

What drives your passion for looking after the mental health of your colleagues and our customers?

I have first-hand experience of mental health crises and don’t want anyone to go through the things I have. I’ve supported friends through crisis over the years and so helping anyone, be that customers or colleagues, is as much a reflex as it is a passion.

How does it feel to be recognised for your dedication to our customers during such a challenging year?

The Out of Hours Service & Safety role has become so much more difficult and demanding this year for all staff, with the added stress that lockdown brought to everyone, especially students. It has been a relief that overcoming the difficulties faced has been recognised, but these were faced by every member of the team, and we all have strengths that complement the varied job role that working out of hours has presented.


If you enjoyed learning more about our staff, why not take a look our brand new A Day In The Life Of… series, in which we speak to city team members to find out what their role entails and the insights they have on student life? Our first instalment introduces Shane Chessum, a Service and Safety Assistant from Sheffield.