Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Collage of 8 staff and students making and receiving Santander meal deliveries in halls of residence

10 May 2020

Towards the end of March, Santander Universities UK contacted Queen’s to advise that the Bank was happy for any unspent Santander funding for the current academic year to be diverted into activities to help support the coronavirus pandemic effort at the University.

As the full implications of COVID-19 were becoming clear, and with everywhere in lockdown, it was a generous gesture which would deliver – and is continuing to deliver – immense practical benefits for hundreds of Queen’s students.

“We advised all of our University partners to repurpose all of our unspent funding for the academic year 2019/20,” said Lindsey McArthur, University Relationship Manager for Santander Universities UK.

“Whilst we have a clear funding strategy across the 3Es – Education, Entrepreneurship and Employability – during this unprecedented time we felt funding should, where possible, be immediately redirected to those in greatest need, either within the student or local community.”

Across the UK over the last six weeks there have been some great examples of the impact this funding has made, from supporting student food banks to student emergency funds and, in local communities, to grants for start-ups struggling to survive.

At Queen’s, the funding has been used to provide a wide range of benefits including practical support and help for items such as food shopping vouchers, hot meals, as well as some treats and snacks. One of the largest operations has been the delivery of over than 850 nutritious hot meals for students on ‘lockdown’ in University accommodation over the Easter weekend in the middle of April and again over the early May Bank holiday weekend.

Richard Robinson, Head of Student Accommodation at Queen’s and one of the organisers of the food delivery, said: “All of the University accommodation is self-catered, and we know some students had struggled getting to the shops initially. As a result, we offered the opportunity for our residents to avail of cooked meals and are delighted that so many took up the offer.

"We also reached out to students in the private sector through the student welfare team and were able to deliver food to their homes. Overall feedback was really positive and staff also noted that it provided a great opportunity to engage with the students, some of whom may have been feeling lonely."

Local company Rule of Crumb was able to provide the meals and a small task force, which included Professor Adrienne Scullion, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC) and Caroline Young, Director of Student Plus, delivered the food into the students’ kitchens ready to heat up. "Having some senior managers join the delivery team on campus gave a real boost, both to the team and the students,” added Richard.

In addition to the cooked meals, 14 children residing with their parents in Willow Walk (one of the halls of residence) received a personalised Easter activity pack, while 1,000 Easter eggs were distributed to students in University accommodation over the holiday weekend, including to the children of international students, many of whom had remained on campus.

“There is nothing nicer than sharing a meal with a friend – that’s what Santander provided our students with who are still in University accommodation,” said Adrienne, who is PVC for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.  

“A brilliant team of colleagues and friends distributed roast dinners over Easter to our wonderfully diverse community of residents. I saw a great spirit of camaraderie amongst the students – many from overseas and a long way from their families – though they also assured me that they were still working hard towards their course work and other end of semester assessments!” continued Adrienne. 

“It doesn’t take a global pandemic to know that the Queen’s community – of staff based in accommodation and more widely across our Directorates, academic Schools and Institutes – really cares about its students. “The flexibility of Santander’s support of HE allowed us to connect with them in a really positive way and make them feel that little bit more supported at a difficult time,” she concluded.

While many of the 3,400 resident students were able to be released early from their University accommodation contracts and return home at the end of March, almost 1,000 decided to remain in halls. This reflects the fact that some were not able to go home due to international travel restrictions, while others chose to stay in Belfast, recognising that it would be easier to study in University accommodation – with the high quality of the facilities and dedicated WiFi – than at home.

“The University’s Residential Life Team have continued to promote virtual events for our students,” said Richard, who is normally based at the University’s Elms BT9 site on Malone Road. “Book clubs, talent shows, bingo, quiz sessions and a Tik Tok challenge help to keep the residential community engaged

As a result of the success and positive feedback from Easter and with the early Spring Bank Holiday falling on Friday May 8th, Santander support was, once again, on offer to the University’s 900+ residents. Normally an opportunity to venture to the seaside or on outdoor trips, this holiday – like Easter – was once again subject to the lockdown rules.

Caroline Young, Director of Student Plus said: “The students were so appreciative of the cooked meals over Easter, it was a great opportunity to do something again over the May holiday weekend.

"I am delighted that, as a result of Santander support we have been able to make a difference to so many students in such a practical way and help feed them when they are busy studying. It went down exceptionally well and the students were all very appreciative so it was certainly worth the effort it took to deliver all of the meals.

“Given that Queen’s has been supporting both staff and students impacted by Covid-19 since January 2020 when reports of the virus first emerged, it is hoped that those students who remained on campus, will have had an enjoyable Bank Holiday weekend, thanks in no small way to Santander,” added Caroline.

As a Santander Universities UK university, Queen's students and staff have benefitted from a wide range of Santander supported initiatives since May 2008. Currently the Bank has agreements with over 1,200 universities in 20 countries, including almost 90 in the UK. Projects include internships and placements, funding for travel and entrepreneurship as well as a number of competitions open to students. This special partnership enables Queen’s students and staff to make invaluable international connections, gain unique learning experiences, start businesses, and otherwise fulfil their ambitions.

Information on research and analysis carried out at Queen's in response to COVID-19 can be found at: If you would like to support the University in its efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

For general enquiries about this story or to submit a graduate news item, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Development and Alumni Relations Office is endeavouring to remain in contact with the University’s graduates and donors, and to promote online networking initiatives, to keep Queen’s alumni and supporters connected.

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