It takes a Village ...
Students in one of the shared accommodation options at the
University of Adelaide's Village The University is a cosmopolitan community, with 7000 international students choosing to invest in an Adelaide education.
The number has grown steadily for years and Professor Pascale Quester is not at all surprised. “We offer a high-quality, globally competitive education in a great, safe city,” the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Academic) says.
The University’s experience is part of an extraordinary Australian success. Last year there were 250,000 international students studying at Australian universities (plus another 340,000 going to school, learning English or in vocational education). All up, the Federal Government estimates education earned a staggering $17.6 billion last year, making it the most successful set of services Australia sells to the world.
But international competition in education is increasing. And so Australia needs a competitive edge, which includes appropriate student housing options.
“It’s great to have small classes and high-quality academics but if students can’t find affordable, comfortable accommodation, they simply will not come,” Professor Quester warns.
And because international students come from such diverse backgrounds with quite different needs, there must be a range of accommodation available.
It’s a message the University understood 10 years ago when it decided it needed a “village”—just not in the countryside. In fact, The Village is about as urban as Adelaide gets, on Grote Street in the West End, just blocks from the Central Market and the Gouger Street restaurant scene. But while the ambience is city chic there’s a close connection to the North Terrace campus, a 25-minute walk away or a short ride on the city shuttle bus.
The location certainly makes The Village popular, with a 60 per cent resident retention rate, close to twice the rate in the general student accommodation market, says Geoff Denison, Associate Director Student Accommodation Services. Some students never want to leave, he adds—there are medical students who have spent their entire six-year study period living happily in The Village.
But there’s much more to loving Village life than location. For a start, it’s a great way for young students who have moved out of home (and their own country) for the first time to adjust to the change and learn about independent living. “It makes the transition easier, especially for the first-year students,” Mr Denison says. “It’s a nice stepping stone.”
It’s also a great way for parents to feel comfortable about their children being a long way from home. The Village is staffed 24/7 with entry to accommodation through a hotel-style lobby with key card security. The complex includes a range of five-bedroom townhouses and four-bedroom apartments with private and share bathroom options. And yes, it provides that most coveted of utilities: endless free WiFi.
And it is a real community—a house of many nations. The biggest cohorts hail from Malaysia, Singapore, China and Australia, joining students from another 35 countries. A strong local presence is important, Mr Denison says, helping newcomers engage with the University community and life in South Australia. The University’s accommodation services also foster friendships in The Village with a packed program of events and excursions. “Residents consistently report very positive experiences from living in The Village,” Professor Quester adds.
The Village sends a powerful message to prospective students that the University is deeply committed to a holistic student experience, and not only academic achievements.
It is an essential signal in the competitive international education market. “There is fierce global competition for international students in Australia,” Professor Quester says. And accommodation, both in terms of comfort and community contact, is a big part of an appealing offer. Quality accommodation choice is certainly very important to young people, and their families, when considering studying out of country. According to a recent federal government report, students like “purpose built” accommodation, on or near campuses, because it “provides a well-rounded experience for both domestic and international students”.
When The Village opened in July 2005, Geoff Dennison knew exactly what he hoped it would deliver: “A unique student accommodation option for Adelaide that combines independent living with significant supportfor residents.”And he believed it would make an important difference for the University’s student culture. “There are many accommodation options available in the private market, but The Village will always provide a unique, student-centric environment that assists students to successfully adapt to life away from home,” Mr Denison says.
A decade on he is proved right—to compete in the global education market, it really does take a village...
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