Anybody who has ever been to university and lived on campus knows student accommodation is a far cry from luxury. A far cry that is, until UniCentral came along!
Each unit is resort style, with four double bedrooms, each with their own en suite bathroom. Students share a kitchen, laundry and living space on each level or unit and there is a lap pool, tennis court, not to mention a recreation pavilion overlooking the swimming and barbecue areas. The facilities alone are enough to impress any prospective student, let alone the view of kangaroos bounding across university grounds and UniCentral’s direct pathway access to lecture halls and classes.
So it’s easy to understand the sentiments of visiting parents who, according to managers, Kim and Sharyn Dwyer, express awe each year upon ‘open days’ when they lament how student accommodation was no where near as good when they went to uni.
The Dwyers entered management rights after first contemplating holiday management but not wanting to sacrifice family time over school vacations and weekends. As a business that is constantly engaging yet relatively hassle-free, UniCentral has proven to be their perfect solution and they have owned the management rights there for over eight years. “At UniCentral, every day for us is different,” the Dwyers keenly assert, “We have never been bored. We are supported by a small team of staff who have been with us for some years and what makes our office tick is their good humor and our exceptional systems.”
Student accommodation operates in a different way to regular accommodation providers. Back in 2003, the Dwyers had to formulate a number of systems from the ground up in order to ensure that the business would run smoothly. Hirum was an immense ally in this respect; specially designing and developing software to suit all needs. “We were the ‘green fields’ site for the development of their Direct Debit software”, Kim and Sharyn recall.
UniCentral has developed Internet systems specifically engineered for its site and for the incredibly heavy use only to be expected of a student population. Together with Cirrus, its ISP provider, it rose to the challenge and managed to develop a transparent, user friendly accounting software package with continuous high speed connectivity. Cirrus also provided them with a direct support line exclusively for UniCentral student enquiries to ensure their ability to provide excellent customer service.
In every regard, the Dwyers, have enjoyed being pioneers in what has been a different and exciting growth segment in the management rights industry and they continue to be so. They have developed an e-commerce web site that leads the way and is used as the model for other student accommodation providers, with this niche in the industry having grown substantially even in the last few years. For the first few years at UniCentral, Kim and Sharyn were involved in the development of the new Residential Tenancy Authority legislation providing a legal platform for ‘rooming accommodation’, catering specifically for student accommodation, so that where UniCentral is referred to as rooming accommodation, the RTA rules provide a suitable legislative environment geared to their target market and type of accommodation offering.
UniCentral works as a home for busy students, who often arrive directly from long haul flights or long drives and generally stay between 21 and 50 weeks – years if they complete full degrees at the University of the Sunshine Coast. So it’s no surprise that it operates as so much more than a business, but very much as a family. Even though that means being available when somebody needs a little extra help, like saving an international student from the occasional nighttime spider!
This is all part of the fun though and the Dwyers enjoy accommodating students, “They are young, intelligent, enthusiastic, good-humoured and respectful of the environment we have created for them”.
One of the many UniCentral perks is that everybody seems to benefit. Kim and Sharyn feel the privilege of being able to make a contribution to what should be remembered as some of the best years in young lives; students feel embraced by a welcoming family – the Dwyers even stage a welcome event at the start of each semester to break the ice amongst their cool 354 new student residents; and all the unit owners get to benefit from more than excellent occupancies.
As a qualified chef, Kim was the food and beverage manager at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre for 14 years – responsible for operating 22 food and beverage outlets within the centre including the Star Restaurant and was responsible for managing approximately 250 casual staff.
Sharyn has a background in marketing and has held management and marketing positions for several iconic Queensland properties.
Having started out with high hopes and apt determination, the Dwyers have never ceased to be amazed at the success of UniCentral. Regardless of the macro environmental events that have occurred, they have continuously experienced exceptional occupancy. Some of their success they attribute to a terrific service ethic, good marketing, generosity and a well maintained property and it’s difficult to argue with their indelibly pleasing results.
Students leave UniCentral reluctant to go, sad to say goodbye and thrilled with their wonderful experience; undoubtedly then there is a lot to look forward to in the student accommodation business, as positive growth in student numbers can only be expected; particularly while the University of the Sunshine Coast continues its development.
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