How has CV-19 affected relationships around the world?

Poppy Humphrey, our town gown relations expert here at UKTGA has been researching how international student housing sectors are adapting to the challenges of Covid-19.


Her full written article can be found on University Business by following this link.


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.

Poppy Humphrey: the secrets of off-campus living

Poppy Humphrey was appointed off-campus student affairs officer at Manchester Student Homes, a jointly funded department of the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University in 2013. She is currently the only internationally-recognised off-campus practitioner in the UK.

At our 2018 biannual Conference held in Belfast, student communications specialists Campuslife proposed an initiative where a member of their team went back to live with a group of students in halls to find out what students really wanted from their accommodation providers. In this instance, it just made perfect sense for our off campus student affairs officer to submerse herself in living with students in an off campus environment!

And thus born was ‘The Secret Life of Students’ a series of short YouTube films designed to educate students about what to expect about life off campus.

To read the full article featured on University Business, click here.

Who are ITGA?

The International Town & Gown Association (ITGA) are a group of academic professionals that work day-to-day with issues related to Universities and their host communities across the United States Of America.

We, together with ITGA, encourage people to plan strategically and discover ways to prevent conflict and enhance the quality of life for those affected by University towns and cities.

UKTGA and ITGA are organisations that are here to assist communities in how they improve their quality of life, have positive interactions between the Institutions and the local community, and importantly, between long-term residents and students. Leaders learn how to reshape the environment to have a healthy place to live, work and play in the places they call home.

Check out this video below, explaining the role of ITGA and introducing you to a few members of the team, including a feature cameo from our Chair- Cooper Healey!

If you want to learn more about ITGA, then visit their website:

St Andrews Town Gown View

St Andrews is a unique and captivating place, and the University is a key part of its charm. Seven centuries of history link the students with the town, leading to the ancient and yet modern institution apparent today. Founded in the early 15th century, St Andrews is Scotland’s first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. Since its conception, the town and the institution have been inextricably woven together. Many current community members are alumni and the University is the biggest employer in the area.

The University holds a unique place within the ‘community’ of St Andrews. The University’s campus effectively stretches across the town, with many historic buildings across the town acting as offices and lecture theatres as well as student halls of residence.

On staff, a dedicated Community Engagement and Social Responsibility Officer works with colleagues to turn our social responsibility aims into reality. As well as a dedicated CESR Officer, University staff within academic, cultural and environmental designations all work with the community on various initiatives and we have an excellent Students’ Association, who work with students to ensure their time at St Andrews is both enjoyable and inspiring, whilst also being respectful and considerate to their environment and community.

A global approach to town-gown relations

Modern day tensions between communities and students are not new, but a collaborative initiative that bestrides international borders thinks it can drive fresh progress.

The origins of town-gown relations date back to the middle ages. Perhaps most notably, the Battle of St Scholastica Day on 10 February 1355 at the University of Oxford saw a two-day riot break out as the result of disagreement  between the townsfolk and gownsfolk at a local tavern.

Despite being steeped in history, the concept of ‘town and gown’ is less understood by the wider higher education sector than you might imagine. For reference, then, the ‘town’ is the non-academic population of a locality, and ‘gown’ is the university community.

UKTGA Chair Cooper Healey & Poppy Humphrey getting involved in Community Volunteering

As universities continue to expand, so do the off-campus communities where students reside. There are numerous positives, such as the opportunity for growth of talent and the capability to enhance the local community. Campus community collaborations also provide support for lifelong learning from the ‘classroom of the world’ which sits outside academia.

In reality, despite these opportunities, the meeting of such distinct communities often creates a number of challenges. This requires sensitively handled efforts and dedicated resources to work towards a cohesive environment, in order to offer support to all who live there.

For the full article, click on the link below:

A global approach to town-gown relations

What is Studentification?

The term studentification was coined and defined by Professor Darren Smith as ‘contradictory social, cultural, economic and physical changes resulting from an influx of students within privately- rented accommodation in particular neighbourhoods’. Since then, it has been used in both the media and academic papers across the UK.

Adopting the term studentification has provided a valuable framework for policy makers, universities and other stakeholders across the globe to find more effective ways of integrating students into the physical and social fabric of university towns and cities.

Professor Smith is fascinated by the formation of new social and economic geographies that are giving rise to more exclusive, segregated, and transient societies. The term studentification conceptualises the processes of change within university towns and cities tied to the growth of student populations and the expansion of higher education. To date, Professor Smith has researched studentification in UK, Ireland, North America, Australia and China.

The Studentification Guide for North America has been a pivotal publication in addressing the key issues surrounding the impact of students living in University towns and cities.