Universities are being invited to trial a new quality accommodation assurance system which is set to make for happier students and landlords and save education establishments time, money and ultimately reputation.
The Student Accommodation Quality Service Assurance (SAQSA) is a web-based piece of technology created to improve the experience of both students and landlords and take the pressure of often stretched University accommodation departments.
The brainchild of tech expert Dr Ahmed Mussa, the idea came about because of his own poor experience of accommodation when he was studying 30 years ago and subsequently reading a report which showed it was still a massive issue today.
Dr Mussa who has a PhD in application of Artificial Intelligence and Automation said: "I studied at university between 1985 and 1990, and for much of the time the dwellings that I was forced to live in were far from ideal. In fact, at one time I ended up with pneumonia and was hospitalised for two weeks.
"At another time I returned from my summer holiday with my wife and two children to a flat with no floor. Unscheduled maintenance had been organised while I was away without any sort of notification and sadly these things still happen."
The National Student Accommodation Survey (NSAS) quizzed over 2,000 students last year and discovered maintenance issues are rife. The survey found nearly 50% of housing issues encountered by students were unresolved within a week. Damp was the most commonly reported issue, boilers breaking down in winter and not being serviced, and even a broken front door remaining unresolved for several days.
Realising the extent of the problem and not content to just build a solution which just allowed students to simply 'rate' their landlords, good or bad, and nothing more, Ahmed has produced a piece of tech which will help guarantee the quality of student accommodation across the country.
Dr Mussa, whose firm in based in Birmingham said: "I wanted a system focussed on 'rating not hating', which involves all parties – student, landlord and university and where relevant provides reassurance for parents.
"Providing accommodation is a service, not a product, so what you get with SAQSA is not only a system that is smart, it is also wise. It takes into account both sides of a situation and helps them to reach a positive resolution."
Whilst Dr. Mussa, is no stranger to popular ratings site such as Tripadvisor, which encourage reviews in the food and leisure sector his tech also incorporates the human element which he feels is vital as it stops anomalies such as London's highly rated restaurant, which did not actually exist.
SAQSA has already been tested with more than 3,000 students completing standardised accommodation reviews. Following the successful first phase, Ahmed is now seeking three universities to sign up to use SAQSA and use it for the second beta stage, which he expects to last for up to six months prior to it going on general release. Each of the first three universities to sign up will be given free subscription for one year – an offer worth around £10,000 each.
SAQSA benefits universities by giving them happier students and parents better links to accommodation providers, both of which will help them to enhance their reputation in what is a highly competitive market place.
Students also benefit by being supported and knowing they can report problems easily with a platform available 24/7 leading to quicker responses as well as quality assurance with issues around private rental property or halls of residence.
SAQSA marketing manager and father-of three Abdel Mussa explains said: "When it comes to attracting and indeed retaining students, it won't be a case of whether universities need to have it, the situation will be that if they want to attract students they won't be able to afford to not have it and parents will expect to see it."
SAQSA based around the value of positive reinforcement with landlords. To address the latter point, SAQSA is designed to engage directly with landlords, opening a process to effectively coach landlords on how to deliver better conditions for their tenants.
Landlords have the opportunity to earn positive feedback via the system, obviously a key component of existing brands such as Amazon, eBay and Uber.
Ahmed said: "Accountability for universities and landlords, assurance for students and their parents and rate not hate – that is what we do in a nutshell."