Case Study

Empiric Student Property PLC Partners With Spike Global to Enrich Student Experience Across its Hello Student Portfolio

Nearly half a million new students have started university this autumn – but for many, the excitement and adventure of leaving home for the first time is tinged with loneliness as they leave family and friends behind.


Recognising this significant issue, Empiric Student Property PLC (“Empiric”), a leading provider and operator of student accommodation, has partnered with resident engagement and property management software provider Spike Global, to help facilitate strong and supportive communities across its 9,000-bed portfolio.


Empiric’s portfolio ranges from purpose-built accommodation to redeveloped offices and public buildings in prime locations across 29 of the UK’s top university towns and cities, including Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds and Oxford. With 50% of Empiric’s student residents now coming from overseas – a group which often struggles the most to integrate – the company has launched a white-labelled version of Spike Living across all 80 of its accommodation sites at the start of this academic year. The user-friendly portal sits as part of its Hello Student brand, which connects Empiric’s entire portfolio under one centralised platform.


Acting as a ‘one stop shop’, the app provides a multitude of features, but crucially enables students to connect with their neighbours and form interest and support groups, as well as organise their own events to get to know each other, helping them feel at home at a time that many can find stressful. As the app is building-specific and only available to genuine residents, it provides a safer, more personal and more local experience than conventional social media, helping students to make genuinely like-minded contacts and friends, both virtually and face-to-face.


As well as the social aspects of Spike Living, the app also provides instant communication with the Hello Student onsite team, making it easier for overseas students, in particular. Residents can book the onsite amenities, organise a parcel collection, report a fault or check on rental payments, anytime and anywhere, offering a game-changing ease of communication on both sides. The app is also home to upcoming events listings, useful local guides and exclusive promotions.


Jeremy Heath-Smith, CEO of Spike Global, comments: “We are extremely proud to be working with Empiric across all its Hello Student sites, and we share an understanding of the importance of accommodation that is not only comfortable, but also supports the social and mental health needs of students. Empiric’s premium accommodation provides a great base from which to enjoy the university adventure, and Spike Living will help students cope with both the social and practical challenges of living independently, by providing a straightforward way to navigate and make the most of their new home.” 


Gemma Le Marquer, Sales and Marketing Director at Empiric comments: “It is particularly important to us that our residents can fully experience all that university life has to offer, and really feel the benefits of a strong student community. We have joined forces with Spike Global, who share our values and market goals, to provide the Spike Living portal at every one of our developments to help residents make the most of this significant life experience.” 


Streamline and Enhance the Tenant Experience With Spike Lettings

The UK annual rental growth has now reached a 14-year high, with the average lettings agent processing in excess of 127 new applicants each month, according to a recent survey by PropertyMark.

With such an increase in demand for rental properties, landlords and managing agents are under pressure to process each application as quickly and efficiently as possible. With the average tenant application taking up to several days to review, process and approve, often requiring a large number of manual steps, from performing credit checks, gathering various information on the prospective tenant to physically issuing paper contracts and waiting for both parties to sign, this can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and delays for prospective tenants eagerly waiting to hear if they have secured the property they want.

It doesn’t have to be this way – end-to-end tenancy management solutions like Spike Lettings can take the stress and strain out of the rental experience for both tenants and landlords or managing agents.

Spike Lettings streamlines and simplifies the initial process of moving into a rental property, empowering prospective tenants to easily find and reserve their ideal apartment straight from their phones. And because all the information about available properties is live and constantly updated, even when routed through third-party sites like Zoopla or Rightmove, tenants avoid the crushing disappointment of finding that every property they enquire about has already gone.

From a property management point of view, using Spike Lettings eliminates many of the manual processes that come about when someone phones and enquires about a rental property – instead, residents can do a lot of the work themselves online.

From the marketing of available properties, taking initial payments and reservations, sending and signing contracts and approving references, to managing the ongoing management once tenants have moved in, the whole process can now be performed digitally, reducing costs, and creating a seamless and stress-free experience for both parties. Spike Lettings also integrates with a number of third party finance management systems to automate the raising of monthly rent invoices, eliminating the time staff need to spend performing administrative tasks and allowing them to focus on value-add activities.

Once moved in, the advantages continue with the Spike Living resident engagement portal, where tenants can view financial information such as rent or see their payment history, book amenities, interact with their neighbours and much more, all via a smartphone app.

Meanwhile, property managers can review business-boosting information from the reporting aspects of Spike Lettings, allowing them to easily access reports, such as rent achieved, voids and debtors. This can be done for individual buildings and across a whole portfolio. They can also see at a glance, on our assets dashboard, the number of properties reserved, occupied and unoccupied, showing which property types are more popular, as well as viewing the scheduled move-ins and move-outs for that week or month. Key tenant information such as gender, age and salary can be captured and used to ensure relevant services and events are provided within a development, even allowing for tenant communications to be tailored based on certain demographics.

Jeremy Heath-Smith, CEO of Spike Global, comments: “Finding and securing a rental property, especially for the many graduates who will be looking at the moment, can be a really stressful experience.”

“We believe the whole process can be made significantly less confusing and less stressful by digitalising the entire applicant journey, so that prospective tenants can view the progression of their tenancy in real-time, communicate with the lettings team, sign contracts, and make payments, all online. Spike Lettings can even guide tenants through the process by giving examples of accepted documentation and a constant update on which documents still need to be produced, avoiding frustrating hold-ups for both the managing agent and perspective tenant.”


How PBSA Operators Can Help International Students Settle into University Life

Going to university for any young person is a huge step, which although comes with excitement, for many it can also be accompanied by anxiety. International students face an additional level of apprehension; moving hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their homes and loved ones, often dealing with the struggles of a second language and differences in culture, not to mention the pressures of academic success.

With over 605,100 international students residing in student accommodation across the UK (and growing), according to research by the House of Commons, providing a sense of belonging to those recently arriving in the UK to study has become imperative.

According to Student Minds’ latest report, a staggering 81% of international students reported mental wellbeing as a top concern, with 68% stating that making friends was their biggest issue at university. Loneliness has been found to be one of the leading causes of students dropping out, however, PBSA operators have the opportunity to improve resident retention by putting measures in place to mitigate the pressures faced by the international student cohort.

Additionally, acculturative stress is also a challenge that many international students have to grapple with, on top of the regular pressures of university life, all whilst dealing with culture shock and language barriers.

So how can PBSA operators help mitigate these pressures to improve the university experience of international students? 

1) Host Events

PBSA operators can host events to help them settle in, from providing informative events specifically for international students to ice-breaker events in order for them to have a few familiar faces to kick off their university experience with.

By using Spike Living, operators can easily and efficiently promote their onsite events directly to their residents, even understanding in advance how many attendees to expect.

2) Create Communities Through Clubs and Forums

Allow students to find and engage with others who share similar interests within their building, such as creating a gaming, football or book club. By using our Spike Living portal, accommodation providers can ensure students are able to feel part of the community and make friends from the offset. Once students get to know each other online, they can then branch out and make plans to meet up in the real world. As Spike Living caters exclusively for building residents, it offers a safer alternative to groups on Facebook or other prominent social media, which are more easily infiltrated by spammers and strangers.

Additionally, through developing cultural societies, international students can develop a sense of a home-away-from-home, and the ability to feel close to their roots even in a different country. Celebrate cultural holidays such as Eid, Diwali, and Chinese New Year to ensure students still feel the same excitement for cultural holidays as they do back home.

3) Allow stress-free communication with the onsite team 

Moving to a different country can be a daunting experience for those who particularly struggle with confidence when speaking a different language. Having the ability to message staff directly without needing to speak face-to-face can take away the stress that can sometimes come from trying to engage in conversation.

Spike Living enables these students to confidently contact reception or log a maintenance request all via a smartphone app. This reduces the likelihood of maintenance issues escalating due to a miscommunication between students and staff.

4) Introduce students to the local area

Much like local students moving to a new city, international students have often reported feeling ‘lost’ in their first year due to not knowing their new area. To make the experience less stressful, and to help them settle into their new home quicker, the ‘Around Me’ feature in the Spike Living portal allows students to easily see how to get to their campuses, local GPs, university facilities, and other points of interest around them.

Operators can even team up with local businesses to offer special discounts to their residents on anything from hairdressers, and coffee shops, to local bars and restaurants, all of which can be promoted to residents and driven through the Spike Living portal. This can help international students feel special and part of a community.


With the number of international students expected to continue to grow over the coming years, PBSA operators must find new ways to engage and help them feel at home. Spike Living can help turn what can be a stressful experience, into an experience they can enjoy.