The University of Guelph will host focus groups and launch a student survey over the next two weeks as part of the ongoing development of its Student Housing Strategy.
The strategy aims to develop long-term, sustainable solutions to help students access housing and is based on making sound decisions through collaboration, data collection and community engagement.
This week, the University is facilitating a series of focus groups designed to engage stakeholders —undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty, athletes, international students, community members among others— in discussing such topics as style of accommodation, pricing, amenities and support services.
Next week, working through SCION Group —one of North America’s leading owners, operators and advisors on student housing— the University will survey graduate and undergraduate students to assess current and future housing needs and identify additional housing-related issues.
About 400 graduate and undergraduate students studying at U of G responded when surveys were distributed over the past summer. This fall, the goal is to triple that response rate.
“The information we gather from these focus groups and surveys will help inform the strategy immediately and, in the long term, provide sustainable solutions to support student housing,” says Ed Townsley, associate vice-president of ancillary services.
“Our efforts to help our students in accessing housing, both on-campus and off-campus are designed to improve life and enhance academic and career success for all members of our learning community.”
Measures to support housing access
While this strategy unfolds, the University has also adopted short-term measures to help support students access housing.
The University created an additional 160 residence spaces by leasing a nearby former hotel property and successfully accommodated all students who applied to live in residence for the 2023-24 academic year. Over the years, U of G has consistently provided on-campus housing to 20 per cent of its student population— nearly double the average Canadian university.
Prior to the start of the school year, the University began promoting a program to support faculty, staff and community members interested in renting accommodations to students.
Later this fall, the University will optimize the use of open residential spaces by making rooms available to faculty, staff and students who commute and occasionally need to stay in Guelph overnight.
Given not all students want to live on campus, the University is also working closely with the City of Guelph and community organizations to find solutions within the city.
Evidence-informed growth strategy
The focus groups and student surveys are the latest steps in developing the strategy. The results from these two initiatives will be included in a report with recommendations scheduled to be released before the end of the year.
“Our evidence-informed growth strategy is aligned with our larger institutional mission,” says Sharmilla Rasheed, vice-president, finance and operations. “Data collection, analysis and community consultation are the keys to our success. We will continue to engage with and update our community as we move through this process.”