I attended and had a speaking role at a Sodexo Symposium held in London last week on social space in its broadest sense within the Higher Education sector which as catering consultant we see as an ever increasing issue.
There is remarkably very limited research on the subject, but what is clear is that students are learning and socialising in different ways and the space that is provided is important to developing friendship groups Improving retention improves quality of life
Interestingly Sodexo’s business is now split between food and FM, and the FM side is growing; they have also split the operating divisions worldwide into global segments, so the universities team now report globally to one person, as do schools defence and healthcare ect, which should enable trends and the cross fertilization of ideas.
There were sessions provided by Geoff Pringle from Exeter, Frances Stone from Leicester, both leading UK universities, with clear examples of how investment in social space has helped them improve their recruitment and student satisfaction scores; and in Exeter’s case the Forum development has been transformational. At Leicester they have been re-instating old common room spaces in the Halls of Residence with modern designs, and these are working.
Miles Berkley from Blue dolphin spoke about HE’s requiring a social space strategy, and to utilise exiting space in different ways, and had a number of excellent examples from Kent University.
Miles also showed examples from Australia and Singapore where there are good examples of living and learning in combination.
The growth of technology seems relentless, with an average of 3.6 devices per person forecast!
My slides are attached and covered the role of catering in social space, and how to optimise the efficiency; as the catering provision remains the glue for these social spaces.
Overall it was a fascinating session with a number of excellent insights, what was highlighted is the need for further research and transfer of good ideas.