UKTGA Virtual Conference

Manchester Student Homes and the UKTGA continues to pave the way for collaborative work on town gown relations, across the globe.

On Wednesday 20th May, the UK Town and Gown Association (UKTGA) hosted a virtual discussion to bring together those that work and are interested in off campus student affairs, to consider the current challenges and identify potential solutions aligned to managing town gown relations during the current CV-19 period.

Manchester Student Homes’ Manager, and Chair of the UK Town and Gown Association (UKTGA) decided to use our ever-expanding global network of Higher Education professionals, private accommodation providers and members of Local Authorities to host a UKTGA online Virtual Conference.  We were delighted to welcome representatives that included University officers, Council and Police representatives, some real life students, academics, Private hall providers and wider sector bodies including representatives from the International Town and Gown Association, ASRA, as well as members of the Nordic Student Housing Organisation.

On the day we welcomed over 60 colleagues from the UK, Northern Ireland, America, Sweden, Norway and Denmark to spend two hours discussing the issues in which many University Cities and Towns are facing currently, will be sure to face in coming months, and the further implications that CV19 will have going forward.

Our pre-conference survey allowed us to pinpoint key areas in which our attendees wanted to focus on to share knowledge, experiences and best practices in their current environment. We also carried out a number of polls during the event to consider how well localised ‘town gown’ partnership were working together to respond to all the challenges.

Cooper Healey, Manager of Manchester Student homes and Chair if the UKTGA commented ‘The virtual forum offered the opportunity for colleagues to come together and collaborate, share experiences and new ideas. We received a huge amount of positive feedback from the discussions and colleagues utilising this network as a source of support during these uncertain times’

Poppy Humphrey, Off Campus Student Affairs Officer at Manchester Student Homes and who sits on the UKTGA Steering Group further added ‘It was encouraging to see that many of our current and anticipated challenges are being felt up and down the country, as well as in other countries. This is a comfort during such unprecedented times, as it means that via the UKTGA we have a network that we can share new and revised ways of working to help support all those that live in off campus communities.

ITGA 2020: A conference during crisis, a timely success

This article was originally written by Gary Stewart for University Business Magazine.


This year’s International Town & Gown Association (ITGA) conference took place virtually, yet tackled the big issues face-on.

If someone had predicted a few months ago that dozens of ITGA member communities and campuses would be shuttered by a global pandemic, followed by a high-profile race-related death that created more stress and uncertainty, few would have believed it. Below the storms and small in comparison, but essential for ITGA, was the fate of our long-planned June conference, set for Boulder, Colorado. At that point, no one could have envisioned a cutting-edge virtual conference that showcased the best of ITGA at so many levels, from Covid-19 to race relations 2020 and key topics in between. This was ‘ITGA Resiliency Illustrated,’ and I’ll be forever grateful.” International Town & Gown Association (ITGA) Executive Director Beth Bagwell


International Town & Gown Association (ITGA)‘s landmark conference featured a menu of responsive programmes touching on current events and steady challenges, including student behavioural issues and neighbourhood relations. Representatives from the UK Town-Gown Association – whose members range from a Canterbury church to the South Wales police and other stakeholders – were also in attendance.

A myriad of excellent sessions touched on economic recovery, off-campus life, and crisis communications. The latter sector included a student-led session on the many issues Covid-19 brought to a rural community of 5,500 people, on the east coast of Canada.

Conference lead presentations were just as stellar, including:

  • The renowned University of Washington professor Dr. Jason Kilmer who has served as lead investigator on several prominent studies on college-age alcohol and drug use. His presentation, ‘But we’re still dealing with alcohol! The Importance of Town-Gown Partnerships in Best Practices in Preventing High-Risk Alcohol Use and Responding to Cannabis in a Changing Legal Climate’, was powerful, entertaining and very well-received.
  • A report-out on ITGA-convened focus groups on how Covid-19 is affecting town-gown environments and relations. Research participants, all ITGA members, represented a diverse array of higher education institutions and communities.  This presentation shared key themes including top concerns for fall openings, and creative ideas for town-gown relations in the wake of the current crisis.
  • A panel presentation on the need for “courageous conversation” on racial tensions, “in order to bring understanding, peace and healing to our current reality of despair, division and racial tensions that have led to widespread global protests.”

Students played an important role throughout the conference, too, including a session titled ‘Poppy’s Wild Week’, led by Manchester Student Homes’ staff leaders Cooper Healey (also an ITGA Board member), and Poppy Humphrey. Manchester Student Homes is a service to provide off-campus and housing support to students, jointly funded by Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Manchester.

The takeaway from this session? “We have daily interactions with students, but how much do we really understand about the student experience off-campus? It is imperative that town-gown partnership can continue to promote community cohesion within the diverse communities in which our students reside.”

“We are so grateful to our colleagues in the UK and Canada,” said ITGA executive director Beth Bagwell, who is based in South Carolina, USA. “They put the ‘I’ in ITGA, and our goal is for more nations to join our growing and increasingly vital organisation in the coming year.”

Gary Stewart is an associate vice president for community relations at Cornell University in Ithaca NY, a longstanding ITGA member.