How much do parents influence university accommodation decision-making?
  • May 25, 2021

How much do parents influence university accommodation decision-making?

by Sharon Steele – Marketing & Client Communities Director, Alterline.

I know from my own experience that, whilst the thought of your child moving away from home and gaining independence at university can be difficult to come to terms with, you nevertheless support their choices and transition as much as you possibly can, especially regarding their living arrangements.

My experience was unsettling enough and that was before the additional concerns and challenges which Covid-19 have added into the equation. Parents of children going to university in the next few years will inevitably experience higher levels of anxiety and concern and step up their influencing role regarding accommodation decision-making even further. But what might that look like and how can universities and accommodation providers support parents with their information needs?

We have already begun to explore those issues in Alterline research projects this year. In the latest wave of our prospective undergraduate recruitment tracker, 53% of respondents told us that their family is one of the most influential factors in making their decisions about university.[1]

And in a broader parental influence study running now, in collaboration with 18 university partners, 89% of parents said they contribute to deciding whether their child should apply for student accommodation or not and 81% told us they feel that the standard of the accommodation is fairly or extremely important when choosing a specific university[2].

Whilst seeing accommodation as an important factor, only 59% of parents agree that they know enough about the accommodation options to be able to help their child with their decision and a significant 13% strongly disagreed that they have sufficient knowledge.[3]

With open days usually offering the best chance to provide information about the accommodation a university has to offer, the events of the past year have clearly impacted the ability to showcase accommodation options to parents and prospective students alike, even though online alternatives have been available. And, with parents currently topping up their child’s university living costs by £131.31 on average every month[4], being able to access the support and knowledge they need to make decisions on the value for money of accommodation options and residential services is bound to be a key concern.

Tools like Martin Lewis’ ‘Parental Contribution Calculator’[5] can help parents identify the extent of the various costs, including accommodation and living costs, involved in supporting their child at university but there’s little evidence available otherwise about the support and tools which parents would find beneficial, especially in the years following the pandemic.

To fill that evidence gap, Alterline will be running a new research project with parents of prospective university students, starting in autumn 2021, and aimed at university accommodation providers. It will explore the extent of parental influence on accommodation choices specifically, the factors they care about most and the communications and support which they need.  To find out more about the project and how to get involved, take a look at the overview here and get in touch if you’d like to know more.

[1] Alterline, ‘Intelligence to Support UG recruitment 2021/22 – Wave 3’, February/March 2021, p. 65

[2] Alterline, ‘Parents as Influencers of University Decision Making’, 2021

[3] Alterline, ‘Parents as Influencers of University Decision Making’, 2021

[4] Jessica Murray, ‘Parents’ guide to university’, Save the Student, 6th April 2021

[5] Martin Lewis, ‘Student loans Mythbusting’, Money Saving Expert, 27th April 2021