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I am a uni student and this is what I want from my campus right now!

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

I'm a student at a Melbourne metropolitan university (hiding for discretion) and after 2 years of lockdowns and online learning, I have some strong feelings on what I would like to see from my university campus experience right now.

My parents love to share stories of their university glory days, where campus experience was the canvas for connection, hosting events, activities, gatherings that forged friendships, learning groups, and relationships with peers and mentors.

Right now I’m struggling to see where the social connection, inspiration, and engaging university experience is that I was promised on enrolment day!

My current experience at university has been a lonesome affair, lacking on-campus vibrancy with dis-engaged teachers and low attendance rates.

If I could describe my experience in single word, it is ‘disconnected.’ I am feeling pretty frustrated.

I get it that universities have it hard right now. Campuses are empty and students are extremely disengaged after 2 years of online learning. If you were to ask an 18-year-old fresh out of high school, whether they would prefer to commute two hours a day for a lecture, or sleep in and watch from bed; the majority will choose the latter option.

But convenience is getting in the way of good learning outcomes.

The challenge that universities are facing is balancing the needs of those who desire hybrid learning, and those who desire face-to-face interaction. Just last month Village Well asked the students, staff and stakeholders of one of Victoria’s leading universities, what experiences they wanted to see in the future of their campuses. A key problem identified was: "there is a shrinking pool of students over the last two years but a funding model built on growth of overseas students." Something needs to change, and fast.

So what did the engagement feedback tell us on how to revitalise campus vibrancy?

There was a strong desire from the engagement feedback for universities to "bring back people and bring back vibrancy," such as:

  • Work harder to attract people back to campus – students, hospitality and academic talent

  • Create great public spaces and hubs of activity that support students to hang out in large groups

  • Consider what community value can be created from under-utilised buildings, spaces & land

  • Empower students in activating campus through events, activation and creative installations

  • Provide great alternative transport options and connections

  • Work with partners in co-location/collaborative programs

Curated campus spaces can act as a catalyst for increased student desire for face-to-face learning and social interaction. This is where placemaking has been making a difference.

Through deliberate action and engagement with students, universities can curate spaces and experiences that benefit those who choose on-campus delivery.

Universities need to be completely transparent, to build trust and disclose how they intend to improve their campus experiences. By understanding the experiences students want then these can be used to inform future masterplans for their campuses.

The Universities we have worked with at Village Well, including Federation University, RMIT and the University of Tasmania, have made a progressive step to achieving this balance, through active engagement to re-establish connection with students, build comradery and provide a vibrant university experience. Partnering with local industry, improving food and beverage offerings, regular events and entertainment are other practical options that can inspire students to return.

We can't go back to the glory days of our parents. That ship has sailed! So, what do I really need from my university right now? A rounded learning experience, a campus filled with people, opportunities for social connection and flexible online backup options. It’s really not that complex!

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