Student demand is re-shaping the shape and function of campuses, in response to student demands for a better vibe.
UAC’s 2022 national survey found that “vibe and campus culture” was the top reason for selecting an institution, at 58% , way up on 45% in ’22 – and well ahead of other factors such as global rankings (26%) and scholarships (25%).
University facilities consultant Samantha Hall, from Campus Intuition, suggests ways to keep the first post-Covid class happy include:
- food: “we need some better solutions to help students hang around longer on campus – like student kitchens, another option is back to cheap style canteens”
- multi-function outdoor spaces
- libraries with places for quiet as well social study and “high quality teaching rooms.”
“We see a lot of teaching spaces that distract students due to uncomfortable furniture, lack of daylight or just inability to engage with the instructor,” Dr Hall says.
She points to Uni Melbourne’s brand new student precinct, (“delivering the co-location of student services, convenient access to public transport, new arts and cultural facilities, and enhanced study and recreation spaces,” the university states). But she adds, “these issues don’t need to all be solved with new buildings, we can do a lot more across our existing spaces.” For example, she points to Curtin U’s refurbishment of its library which has doubled seating capacity (Dr Hall is on the Curtin U council).
“We have to really tune into what students need,” she adds.
And that means being open to when students are around – Swinburne U is building a new “late lab” on the Hawthorn campus, a space for students to study, socialise and cook for themselves and do it, 24/seven. This should not be too hard.
A Swinburne survey found students are not especially expansive in their aspirations. Half, “want a combination of indoor and outdoor features, while more power outlets, bigger tables and pod seating also rated highly.”
“Students want flexibility in how they learn: alone at a secluded desk; alone together at large tables; group work with a white board; casually catching up with friends over coffee; late night sessions after work. Being around other people provides human connection and group motivation, even if students aren’t conversing,” Dr Hall wrote in Campus Morning Mall in ’21.