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TUCO and OCC to encourage new thinking for on-campus hospitality


The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) has commissioned the Oxford Cultural Collective to explore how on-campus hospitality and food provision can play a more significant role in delivering a positive student experience.


The project will focus on the ‘social dimension’ of university catering: how it can contribute to the induction of new students; their integration into culturally diverse environments; their motivation to learn; and their development of strong relationships with others, to support positive mental health.

Donald Sloan of OCC commented: “We know that sharing food and dining together helps us build meaningful relationships, mutual understanding and a sense of belonging. We aim to determine how this principle can be applied on university campuses in ways that improve students’ quality of life”.

As the representative body of UK universities that do not subcontract their catering to private providers, TUCO encourages its members to use their independence in creative and impactful ways. In this instance, TUCO is establishing an explicit link between the work of its members and one key priority for higher education institutions: the continuous enhancement of student satisfaction.   Universities are under more external pressure than ever before to deliver a student experience that is perceived to be ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘value for money’. Rankings are based, to a significant degree, on overall student satisfaction as determined by the National Student Survey, and the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework is further intensifying scrutiny of the student experience. In addition, press coverage of major challenges such as spiralling student debt and growing numbers of students with mental health conditions, are leading many to question whether a university education is worth pursuing.

Given this context, enhancing the student experience is a top priority for most universities, and publicising innovative forms of student support is a common tactic for boosting student recruitment. It is perhaps surprising, therefore, that the role of university catering in improving life on campus receives such little attention in national conversations.

The project will deliver an accessible and engaging ‘package’ of guidelines for universities focused on enhancing the student experience through on-campus hospitality. The research findings will be presented at TUCO’s winter conference, in December 2018, at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Matthew White, Chairman of TUCO said, ‘Our organisation has always been mindful of the impact of our members work upon the student experience, and as a body of progressive hospitality professionals, TUCO facilitates fresh thinking and innovation. This important piece of research will equip our members with insights that will enable them to develop products and services that truly chime with customers, delivering true benefit and added value’.

The research partner on this project will be Dr Peter Lugosi of the Oxford School of Hospitality Management at Oxford Brookes University.

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