Date of release: Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Government and universities should do more to support students who live off campus and commute to study, according to a new report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), published today.

Homeward Bound: Defining, understanding and aiding 'commuter students' was written by Vice Chancellor of the University of Greenwich, Professor David Maguire and David Morris, the Vice-Chancellor's Policy Officer.

It found that commuter students at universities in the UK are a group which are often misunderstood, underappreciated and under-represented.

As well as facing the challenges of high travel costs, they also have different needs than residential students.

Professor Maguire said: "Living off campus and commuting to study is much more common that many people think. At many universities, it is the norm. Yet the needs of commuters are poorly understood. They are hardly ever considered in policies and assessment metrics such as the National Student Survey and the Teaching Excellence Framework. This needs to change if commuter students are to be served better."

The report made recommendations including that the Post-18 Education and Funding Review should ensure concerns about the cost of living are not restricting students' choices on where to live.

It also made some practical recommendation to higher education institutions, who, it advised, can help commuter students by: 

  • adapting induction;
  • re-organising timetables;
  • creating online support communities for commuter students; 
  • re-thinking the use of their space and improving facilities aimed at commuter students; 
  • implementing ride-share schemes and focusing on travel safety; and
  • providing co- and extra-curricular activities during the day and early evening.

David Morris, co-author of the report, said: "British universities have historically been run on the assumption that students will live with other students, on or close to campus. But that is not the case for many. If access to higher education is to go on widening, then more students will need to commute to university. Universities must ensure everyone has an equal chance of succeeding, irrespective of their accommodation."

Improving the support available to our student commuters has been a key factor in the development of the University of Greenwich's Academic and Student Experience Strategy 2018-22. 

The university is working in partnership with Greenwich Students' Union to improve the accessibility of social and extra-curricular experiences for all students through the Academic Communities Project.

Read the full report on the HEPI website.