Graduate Accommodation: restructured and here to help

‘Finding somewhere comfortable to live at an affordable price, while you undertake your studies, can be a daunting prospect. The Graduate Accommodation team is here to help.’

That’s the opening line of a section of the University’s Graduate Accommodation website, and it neatly captures the team’s focus on the needs of students, which is at the heart of a new emphasis on customer service.

Project Description:

In 2014, the University’s Graduate Accommodation Office underwent a major restructuring with a new Head, new team members and revised roles. The 12-strong team – which includes staff at the Worcester Street Office and six on-site caretakers – has since developed, consulted on, and introduced a series of improvements to their customer service offer. Two key themes have been: improving access to the service and providing better, easier-to-use information. Measures introduced so far include more student-friendly accommodation policies and procedures with a renewed focus on consistency and transparency, additional opening hours to tie in with typical student arrival and departure times, an improved website, and a student handbook that’s had a complete overhaul.

The Challenges:

The Graduate Accommodation Office is responsible for 824 different units across 10 sites. Its students come from all over the world and they arrive in Oxford in a variety of ways and at varying times. Around half the units are for single students but as many again bring partners and/or children. The majority stay for a year, but there are those who stay longer and need extended tenancies.

The Solutions:

The improved Graduate Accommodation website is now a more comprehensive and interactive source of information. This includes the application procedure, which students can access before they arrive in Oxford. Previously those who arrived at weekends or late in the evening had to arrange their own hotel stay until they could access their building on Monday or the next weekday morning.

The new team – with the help of Security Services – now allow check-in at weekends and late evenings. In addition, the Graduate Accommodation Office has extra opening hours on three late-September/early-October weekends to coincide with the arrival of the majority of graduate students.

Also on the agenda are new Meet & Greet sessions at each of the sites. These introduce students to their caretaker, Graduate Accommodation Office staff and other members of Estates Services the students may find useful to know.

 

The Outcome:

Further improvements are planned on the basis of ongoing consultation with students, both while they are here and as they leave Oxford. But the greater focus on communication and relationship-building continues to provide good feedback. These are just some of the many positive student comments:

We felt that the people at the Graduate Accommodation Office were not just doing their jobs but that our worries and problems really mattered.’

‘Both the office staff and caretakers onsite have been incredibly helpful whenever we needed assistance or an issue has arisen.’

I have nothing but good things to say about everyone I’ve dealt with. It was a stressful time and without your help, I would not have been able to stay to undertake my course.’

Published November 2015