W67 – 8,500 students, many opportunities – bringing ‘the University’ to residences through Learning Communities

dance room – wednesday 09:00-10:00

Mark Hibbert and William Carey

Residences, Directorate for the Student Experience

The University of Manchester

Mark works full-time for the University’s Halls of Residences, working closely with Hall Wardens and the student-led Student Associations to support proactive and reactive interventions encouraging community development and wellbeing.  He is the Warden of a large, catered residence and supports individual students with issues of welfare, conduct and personal development.

William’s substantive post is within the Teaching and Learning Support Office where he focusses on Manchester’s culture and approach to Student Engagement.  He works part-time as a non-residential adviser for Residences and is supporting the introduction of Learning Communities through student-led activity and developing the training of the core Pastoral Team.


How can you or your colleagues impact your students’ living environment? The University of Manchester has piloted ‘Learning Communities’ in its managed Residences to support the academic, social and personal development of its residents. Come and discuss with us:

  • (y)our successes and challenges
  • Integrating residential life into institutional frameworks
  • Building culture and capacity in key teams


The University of Manchester guarantees all Year 1 students accommodation in its Halls of Residence, comprising approximately 8,500 beds.  It operates a mix of catered/self-catered Halls in a range of traditional and modern buildings.  Students are supported by a team of part-time, live-in pastoral advisers (themselves either post-graduate or staff).  Over the past 3 years, and building on the excellent practice undertaken by each Hall’s ‘Residents Association’, staff working within Halls have developed a ‘Learning Communities’ model that seeks to encourage student to integrate their social and academic lives in their Hall.

Critical to the initiative have been the strong partnerships forged between Residence staff and wider University colleagues. The programme started as a small pilot activity in one traditional, collegiate Hall making use of student-led study groups and working with the Careers Service to run an evening workshop to prepare students for summer internship applications. The activity has now developed across multiple Halls (approx. 2,500 students) and draws from the expertise of many campus based services including the Library, Counselling Service and International Society.

The programme is aligned to two emerging models of practice: ‘Manchester Ways to Wellbeing’, 6 actions to incorporate into daily life (drawing from the research by the New Economics Forum) and ‘Manchester Employability Model’ (built on internal research to identify key approaches taken by students successful in finding work soon after graduating).

Anecdotal feedback from students and observed behaviours indicate this approach has been successful in enabling students to develop additional relationships (particularly international students) to support a greater sense of belonging within Halls and across different residences.

Ongoing work to enhance the training provided for the pastoral advisers is working to embed some provision within each Hall, that is ‘owned and led’ by the individual Hall community whilst maintaining a coordinated oversight, ensuring an equitable experience for our students.

This workshop will briefly outline the University’s Halls of Residence structure and then explore the concept of Learning Communities and Residential Life through a series of challenges that have been encountered.  Participants will be encouraged to share and develop their own experiences of partnered opportunities between residences and wider academic/support services. It will also highlight the importance of embedding activity into the individual culture of each Hall and how this is happening at Manchester through a consistent training programme for pastoral advisers and the oversight by the Pastoral Care Management Team.

Activities across Manchester’s Halls will be shared alongside feedback from those students and staff engaged in the pilot activity.  It will demonstrate how the programme aligns to Manchester’s ‘Ways to Wellbeing’ and ‘Employability Model’ to support students in making connections between their Hall life and the available services on campus.

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