Thriving – what does it mean to students and how is their ability to thrive impacted by the spaces and places they inhabit?

In September 2022, Conductor launched The Big Thrive Trends report which was built on the results of 8,000 respondents across the UK, exploring the concept of thriving as individuals and communities. (In case you missed it, you can catch up on the report here.)

With our purpose as “orchestrators of thriving societies”, we aim to influence how investors, developers, operators, asset managers and all real estate professionals think about their product and service offerings from the get-go.

When looking at the younger generation, one of the widest-spread issues students across the UK are facing today, isn’t as much about ‘where will I go to university?’, but ‘where will I live when I do?’

As highlighted in an article recently published by the Guardian, many young people are struggling as local student accommodations are full, there’s a lack of alternative housing options and the Airbnb storm is decreasing long-term lets.

Students looking to join top universities across the country such as Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Glasgow and Edinburgh are facing the ‘commuter experience’ by living in neighbouring regions, sometimes up to a 40-minute train journey away.

The impact this has on the safety of young students, the ability to connect with their fellow academic community, and ultimately the entire university experience, is being compromised.

In recognising the importance of a thriving experience from early on and thinking about how to support our next generation of workforce and leaders in these pivotal foundational years, we at Conductor have decided to explore this topic further.

We have delved deeper into the data gathered over four surveys of 8,000 respondents to draw insights relevant to the Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) sector and provide recommendations.

Our data set for this specific segment consists of 471 respondents.


Students are currently not thriving. Community thrive scores (Figure 2) are higher than individual scores (Figure 1) but the 65 baseline score is a way off for both. Students predominantly associate the feeling of being happy with thriving, followed by feeling secure and energized (Figure 3).

When looking at topics that impact students’ ability to thrive (Figure 4), we can see that for nearly 80% of students, mental and emotional health is very important. Their physical wellbeing is considered important as well, but to a lesser extent than their emotional health. Time to themselves is more important than interaction with others. Half of the students consider the space they live in as a very important factor to their ability to thrive.

Overall, the most important factor for students when selecting accommodation is the design, feel and comfort of the building while inclusive amenities are considered less important (Figure 5).


We do see that preferences change when looking at specific locations. The design, feel and comfort of the home/building are most important to students in London and Birmingham (Figure 6). However, in Glasgow, the most important factor influencing students when selecting accommodation is the location; i.e. they want to be close to the university. Students in Glasgow also find it important to feel part of a community.


A few key themes emerge when looking at the evidence collected from our surveys. It’s been a tough few years for students with many starting their studies remotely resulting in a lack of connection with peers and missing out on those early, fun and sometimes daunting yet expansive first few weeks.

Good Mental Health and all the ingredients that contribute towards this should be top of the list for any PBSA provider. Ensuring that students feel happy and secure will give them the foundation to study, learn and develop.

Once this foundation is set, the location of the development gives us a good clue as to what students in those areas are looking for.

In London and Birmingham, the overall ‘design, feel & comfort of the building’ followed by ‘proximity to transport services and the university’ are the most important factors when considering where to live. Developers can prioritise high-quality finishes, central locations with nearby neighbourhood amenities, and short distances to the university, with various transport options.

In Glasgow, the priorities for students differ slightly and are more focused on the proximity to the university first and foremost, followed closely by feeling part of a thriving student community. Therefore, amenity spaces that enable for the community to get together are highly important.

These are just a few of our findings around students and what makes them Thrive. If you would like to hear more, please get in touch.



With locations all around the UK, Novel Student provides high-quality student accommodation designed with the needs of their communities in mind. From incredible wellness facilities and excellent service, they are constantly thinking about how to support the health and happiness of their residents.

Referring to the results of the Thrive report student segment focus, being ‘Happy’ was strongly linked to their Thrive Score* as well as feeling ‘Secure’ and ‘Energized’ (Figure 3). Furthermore, mental and emotional health is very important to nearly 80% of students (Figure 4). Novel Student walks the walk and brilliantly communicate how they support these values via their key messaging which showcases ‘Live, Work, Play and Wellness’ across all their touchpoints. Their website and social media also present a strong visual representation of how their spaces and places support well-being and a healthy lifestyle through top-of-the-line gym facilities, healthy eating options and community events such as yoga and meditation.

Zooming in further, if we look at Glasgow as a prime example, they recognised how important it was to local students to live in close proximity to their campus and feel part of a thriving local community. Novel’s Bridle Works is located right in the heart of the city and within walking distance to Glasgow’s three main universities. With a large range of amenity spaces and community events, Bridle Works is the perfect place for residents to socialise and make new friends.

“Service, design, community and well-being take top priority across all our Novel Student sites. At Novel, we think students deserve to feel at home when they’re studying which is why we create beautiful places, where the staff are warm and welcoming and where the community comes first. It is great to see that Conductor’s Thrive research confirms that Novel’s key pillars are aligned with what makes a great place for students. We look forward to applying these insights to our expanding portfolio.”

Gina McMorran, Senior VP, Sales and Marketing at CA Ventures

*Our Thrive scores are a simple yet straight to the heart of the matter insight into how we feel we are faring as individuals, and how we reflect on our communities as a whole. A score of 0 means were at rock bottom and at 100 were knocking it out of the park!


What’s next for the student housing market? Can our industry support the facilitation of spaces and places that will enable our student community to thrive and ultimately set the core foundations for the youth who will in future, live in the spaces and places we create? We turn the baton to you, the expert leaders in this powerful industry to share more about how your residents are doing and in turn, help create more thriving spaces and places.

As always, your questions, thoughts and comments are invited. Please reach out to Conductor if you’d like to have a chat about co-creating insights, marketing and customer experience solutions for your community needs, or if you’d just like to share more about what you’d like to see on the Thrive Journey as it develops!

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