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Our unparalleled research provides the higher education sector with up-to-date insight into student life.

Our unparalleled research provides the higher education sector with up-to-date insight
into student life.

Each year we carry out research to provide valuable insight into student accommodation and the wider student experience. As a leader in the sector, our aim is to provide a better understanding of current issues affecting students as well as the wider implications for the purpose-built student accommodation in the UK.

Below are the latest key findings from the last few years.

Latest research

Improving the transition to Higher Education

What challenges face a post-Covid generation of students, and how does this impact on their ability to adjust to independent living and university life?

Written in collaboration with the Higher Education Student Support Champion Professor Edward Peck, this new report looks to answer these questions – and what we as a sector can do about it.

Living Black at University Commission Report

Our new Commission report shares practical tips and resources for improving Black students’ accommodation experience.

Living Black at University

2023 Applicant Index

A new cohort of students will be arriving at university this autumn – but who are they, what do they need support with, and how confident do they feel about independent living? Find out in our 2023 Applicant Index report.

Unite Students Applicant Index 2023

Latest insight

Journey to a Million

New insight from UCAS is projecting that by 2030, there could be up to one million applicants for Higher Education in the United Kingdom.

Unite Students have partnered with Knight Frank to help drive the UCAS ‘Journey to a Million’ debate and answer the question: 'How do we accommodate a million applicants?'

Unite Students in partnership with UCAS and Knight Frank, Journey to a Million debate

Latest research

Meeting the needs of neurodivergent students

Created in collaboration with a student-led organisation, 'An asset, not a problem: Meeting the needs of neurodivergent students' is a new report into the experience of students and applicants who are autistic and/or have ADHD. 

With a focus on the transition to university and day-to-day living in student accommodation, the report uses the words of students from Bristol University Neurodiversity Society (BUNS) to articulate their needs and make recommendations about how they could be better supported at university.

Meeting the needs of neurodivergent students

Coming soon

Student drug use

Universities UK (UUK) has announced new work in partnership with Unite Students, GuildHE and Independent HE, to set out a common approach to reduce harms from drug use and better tackle supply.

Social Market Foundation report sponsored by Unite Students


2022 Applicant Index

The Higher Education sector is getting ready for thousands of prospective students to head to university for the first time. But who are 2022’s applicants, and what does the class of 2022 need at university? With a view to starting to answer to these questions, Unite Students is delighted to share our inaugural Applicant Index report, available for download below.

As the academic year fast approaches, the Higher Education sector is preparing for thousands of prospective students preparing to head to university for the first time. But who are 2022’s applicants, and what does the class of 2022 need at university? With a view to starting to answer to these questions, Unite Students is delighted to share our inaugural Applicant Index report, available for download now.

The climbing cost of living

Our new independent research* has shown that students and parents are extremely worried about the increasing cost of living. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Blackbullion, a financial wellbeing platform with financial education and funding for students, to offer help and support for anyone who’s struggling to cope financially.

Living Black at University

Living Black at University is a major new report into Black students’ experience in UK student accommodation, commissioned by Unite Students and carried out by Halpin Partnership. Since, we have launched a national commission in order to respond to the findings and recommendations at a national level.

Living Black at University is a major new report into Black students’ experience in UK student accommodation, commissioned by Unite Students and carried out by Halpin Partnership - a must-read for all universities and accommodation operators.

Empty nest syndrome

New independent research commissioned by Unite Students and undertaken by Censuswide, shows that empty nest syndrome is hitting hard, with 98% of parents dropping off a child at university for the first time this autumn saying they have experienced extreme grief.


Students call for stronger action on climate change

Our latest research shows that students are more concerned about climate change than any other issue in 2021 – including the challenges of COVID-19.

Students’ mental health hit by Covid-19

In a survey of 2,000 students, carried out for Unite Students by Yonder Data Solutions, university students say the two biggest struggles as a result of Covid-19 have been the lack of face-to-face teaching and practical experience (79%) and their mental health and wellbeing (77%).

Jenny Shaw, Higher Education External Engagement Director, attended the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI)’s annual conference on 9th June – here are her key takeaways for the student accommodation sector. The HEPI Annual Conference is always a red letter day in the higher education calendar, not least because it doubles up as the launch of the annual HEPI/HEA Student Experience Survey. This year was especially interesting, as we were all eagerly waiting to find out whether student satisfaction and wellbeing had bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. The answer was mixed, and well debated at the conference - as you might imagine. There were a few surprises in the data, and new announcements from the Minister of State for Higher and Further Education, Michelle Donelan. There was plenty in the conference that was relevant to student accommodation, and I came away realising that accommodation can address many of the issues raised; in fact, in many cases, we are already doing so. Perhaps now is the time for student accommodation to have an even stronger voice in higher education policy. There is a new Student Support Champion. Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, has been appointed as the government’s national champion for student support. Among other things he will be supporting universities to use technology and other tools to spot early warning signs that students need support, and there is a focus on the role that academic staff can play. However, accommodation staff are often the first to know when students are struggling with their mental health, so it’s essential that we get this on his agenda too. Students are much lonelier than the general population. Almost a quarter - 23% - of students felt lonely most or all of the time, compared to 5% of the general population. Alison Johns of Advance HE pulled out a student quote as an illustration: “It’s new, and I’m lost.” The popularity of the recent CUBO ResLife conference illustrates how much of a focus this is for our sector. These survey results show just how much of a difference a comprehensive and inclusive welcome and social programme is for today’s students. The government appears to have ruled out setting student number caps. Michelle Donelan said “No-one is talking about limiting numbers going to university”. Whether this is a firm promise or not we will have to wait and see, but if so we can expect the demographic uplift to bring us bumper intakes of domestic students over the coming years. Belonging is a ‘secret sauce’ and universities need to think about who will feel comfortable and happy in their institution. In a thoughtful and data-informed presentation, Josephine Hansom from YouthSight challenged universities to think very carefully about the type of students that will feel comfortable at their university, and whether this is reflected accurately in their marketing. Students can’t do well academically if they don’t have that feeling of comfort and belonging, so universities must ensure that the reality reflects the promise. ‘Living with or close to other students’ was the third biggest contributor to a sense of belonging, and it was even more significant to LGBT+ students. Josephine shared other data that showed LGBT+ young people were less optimistic, less likely to say they wanted to get to the top of their career and less likely to be entrepreneurs. As a result, we are missing out on great leadership talent as a country. Universities – and student accommodation – are “places where this can change” for LGBT+ students and other minority groups. Black students and students from other ethnic minority groups feel a lower sense of belonging. The survey replicated the findings of our Living Black at University research about the lower sense of belonging among Black students. We know already that what happens in accommodation can have a significant impact on Black students’ sense of belonging, and as a sector we are already working on addressing these findings. This is a real opportunity for student accommodation to lead the wider sector on this important issue. If the survey data is the colouring book, lived experience provides the colours In a powerful and moving presentation Melody Stephen, General Secretary of the University of Manchester Students’ Union talked about the importance of understanding the lived experience of students. She shared an example of a Black student who walked into accommodation and was assumed to be a housekeeper, and another of a care experienced student who arrived at university only to find that the promised support did not live up to what they had been told. It's clear that understanding the lived experience is important to making change. While the data presents a mixed bag for students, there’s a clear will across the sector to effect positive change – and student accommodation can play an important part in that. Read Jenny’s recent blog on helping students to feel a sense of belonging in their accommodation here.

What we’ve learned about 2021’s new students

We shared the findings of our 2021 applicant survey, shedding light on the incoming student cohort’s wellbeing, preparedness for university, and much more. Earlier in June, we also hosted a round table on the needs of new students with a panel of sector experts. Jenny Shaw summarises what we’ve learned from both the survey and round table, and what we can expect to see from those students coming to university in the autumn.

University Students

2020 and earlier


Experiences during the COVID-19 Pandemic

We understand that students this year are facing significant challenges by being at university during a global pandemic. We wanted to find out exactly how students are feeling a couple of months into their first months of the new academic year. We surveyed 1,000 UK students to see how they have adjusted

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


Students keen to get back to university campuses to study and socialise

We carried out research of UK students and parents, with Opinium, who polled 500 students and 500 parents for their thoughts on COVID-19, student safety and returning to university.

The cost of living crisis is currently impacting on students' finances

The New Realists

The New Realists reveals what going to university means to this generation, and how they navigate their way into and through their first year. For those of us providing student accommodation it’s a valuable insight into what’s important to this year’s students, and how we can support them to get the most from their time at university.

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

Student Resilience

This paper takes a closer look at the subject of student resilience to encourage greater debate, exploration and fresh perspectives. As the paper outlines, while study of student resilience is still very much in its infancy in the UK, there is recognition that student mental wellbeing is a growing challenge, and one which needs greater consideration.

Stable student accommodation is a vital part of widening access to university - as the Unite Foundation's 10-year impact report goes to show.

Reality Check

The first major survey of its kind, Reality Check, produced by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Unite Students, shows a significant gap between what university applicants think higher education is like and the realities of student life.

University Students

Everyone in

Everyone In - produced by Unite Students, sheds light on the experiences of 6500 students studying in the UK, showing a stark disparity between different groups and the challenges they are more likely to face whilst at university.

Unite Students group images