Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Why Campus Matters: Reflecting on Models of the Future Campus within a New Paradigm for Campus Living and Learning

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Why Campus Matters: Reflecting on Models of the Future Campus within a New Paradigm for Campus Living and Learning

Article excerpt


COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES are constantly repositioning their approaches to academic and student life to stay ahead of shifting demographic and financial realities. The widespread integration of online learning, proliferation of cross-university registrations and degrees, and rise of universities organized as multi-destination operations at a national and international scale elicit the question: Does campus still matter?

This question isn't new, but the contours of the discussion continue to change as the campus is increasingly understood as a conduit for amplifying mission, curriculum, and pedagogy. In our work we see the idea of campus stretching to encompass more than it has ever had to before.

Responding to the need for new skills, training, and education, many institutions have reimagined their curricula to span departments and schools, which means that students are on the move. Here in the United States, there is a school offering students international instruction in countries around the globe. Abroad we have worked with a school system doing away with the entire concentration-based degree system it has always known, moving toward instruction that hinges on holistic cross-disciplinary problem solving.

Around the world, changes in educational approach require reorienting to support new educational models and recasting both what higher education is and how a physical environment can serve it.


In the United States, schools today face intense pressure to recognize and incorporate diversity as a strong driver of campus life, provide accessibility on multiple levels (from the campus to the classroom to the web), and consolidate and build within limited footprints. The campus, as the intersection between academic life and student experience, must provide places for belonging. Building inclusive and accepting environments is critical to cultivating community. In fact, this sense of belonging is the essential jumping-off point for communities to learn, challenge, work out differences, and ultimately evolve.

Abroad, a new paradigm for campus living and learning is emerging due to strong pressure for growth and rapid expansion in the fields of teaching and research along with the need to overhaul outdated learning models in an increasingly competitive higher education market. With greater land availability and alternative models for funding, some international campuses are disrupting decades of tradition, reinventing themselves while simultaneously setting regional or national agendas for academics and student life.

Funding is a challenge everywhere. With tuition at historically high rates and unceasing demands for maintenance of aging building and site infrastructure, schools need to look for alternative ways of adapting. This has manifested, for example, in the exploration of public-private partnerships (P3s), which bring the forces of privatization and monetization to the campus realm. Many schools have taken on a development mind-set to relieve debt burdens associated with capital investments--the full effects of which have yet to play out. Beyond creatively sourcing funds, many schools need to reinvent themselves and their offers to respond to faster-paced changes in pedagogy and a more selective student body with a broader geographical footprint.

This shifting ground has moved planning and design thinking to new platforms that focus on analytics, modeling, and scenario planning as the springboards for effective adaptation and implementation. Our approach has evolved from master planning that defined strict directives for physical development to framework planning that accepts constant change and evolving demands and navigates new modes of educational delivery while contending with global competition.


Our collaborative experiences with colleges and universities in North America and abroad offer complementary perspectives on the thinking of the contemporary campus and illustrate current trends, pressure points, and issues. …

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