10 Aug 2018

Universities are a defining piece of the puzzle when it comes to shaping cities and communities for a better future.

The primary role of universities was once the delivery of education. Today, a more complex set of drivers propels the sector. Whether it’s technology, academic opportunity, student culture, campus life or the dynamic of facilities on offer — universities are striving to reach and retain an ever-evolving audience.

Here at Urbis, we recognise the unique challenges facing the sector and the emerging opportunities. Our work supports the strategic vision of universities, by guiding complex institutions through a process of discovery – to arrive at a campus design, strategy or master plan equipped to meet the challenges of the future.

Through these ten insights, we explore how universities can leverage evidence-based design and industry collaboration to meet the needs of the future.

01. Be a catalyst for growth

Education plays an essential role in our society. It’s how we expand our minds, change our lives and support our families. It’s also one way to grow our cities and towns when semester begins and campuses come to life.

As more universities tune into the benefits of partnering with businesses and industry, more pathways become available for staff and students. In remote locations, strategies like these can attract the broader community to campus and build a town centre atmosphere.

The University of Newcastle, NSW. Click to learn more about our services. Image: © The University of Newcastle, courtesy of The University of Newcastle.

02. Gone are the gates

Formerly fortressed universities are looking beyond the gates — to connect with a broader community and build relationships that bring people onto campus.

Gone are the days where learning took place solely at university, with job and business opportunities located somewhere beyond the campus gates. Once distinct sectors, we’re now seeing a blend of the two, as businesses and universities recognise the potential rewards in working together.

03. Start from the ground up

It’s now business as usual for universities to create dynamic campuses that cater to a range of different needs.

We work with universities to deduce a master plan most likely to attract students and employees to campus, studying every aspect of a university in action from the ground up, to design a campus that grows in value over time.

University of Sydney Master Plan, NSW. Click to learn more about this project. Image: © University of Sydney, courtesy of University of Sydney.
Monash University Food and Beverage Strategy, VIC. Click to learn more about our services. Image: Courtesy of Monash University.

04. Partner with industry

With government focus on universities as career destinations for working Australians, there’s pressure to find the right partners and land uses.

Partnering with a like-minded organisation can be a clever solution when faced with limited land options. Staff and students benefit from workplace experience, while employers have easy access to newly trained graduates.

Speigeltent for ECU MT Lawley Campus, NSW. Click to learn more about this project. Image: Courtesy of Edith Cowan University.

05. Provide accommodation

With an increased number of students staying on campus or in nearby urban centres, there’s more vibrancy around universities than ever before.

Student accommodation supports on-campus retail outlets beyond the 9–5 and helps to balance out the heavy foot traffic of semester with the less populated semester breaks.

06. Maximise your magnetism

Engaging in the broader story of students and staff is essential when planning for the future of any university.

What attracts students and staff to a campus? It could be access to public transport, on campus industry partners that are engaged with student life, work‑related learning opportunities through nearby businesses or the availability of affordable housing close to campus.

The University of Newcastle, NSW. Click to learn more about this project. Image: Melbourne Conservatorium of Music,
Southbank University of Melbourne; Architecture & Interior Design — John Wardle Architects; Image courtesy of John Wardle Architects.

07. Cut through complexity

Balancing a complex matrix of stakeholders, universities are now moving to work hand in hand with commercial partners to optimise outcomes. Clever negotiations with policy makers and careful navigation of planning controls are equally crucial for future success.

As advocates for the university and education sector, we work with policy makers to help them understand the direction universities are moving in, whether it’s regenerating urban land or building an innovation hub.

Carlton Connect Initiative, VIC. Click to learn more about this project. Image: The University of Melbourne, Image courtesy of Lendlease.
UQ St Lucia Campus Master Plan. Click to learn more about this project. Image: Urbis.

08. Optimise all assets

Universities are not typically equipped to make the most out of their own assets, land or locations. Our expert real estate professionals are trained in finding value in campuses that are as different to the next, each with a unique set of parameters.

Whether it’s establishing the optimum height and spacing for a new campus design, measuring how these qualities impact student engagement, or researching future plans for the region, we can make sure that all your assets are earning their keep.

09. Support your students

Universities are complex communities with a diverse population that’s always in transition. With some as large as small cities, it is crucial that we understand how to create a safe and supportive campus for all.

When students start university, they may have left home for the first time in their lives, with as many as one in four moving from overseas to Australia to study. When they arrive on campus, they bring widely varying expectations, ambitions, academic capacities and diverse life experiences and social skills. Finding a safe and affordable place to stay is a key part of this life transition.

Research on the affordability of student accomodation, National. Click to learn more about this project. Image: Getty Images.

10. Invest in careers

What’s next? Careers counselling and education is becoming a valuable asset for universities — for students past and present.

Careers education and advisory services are increasingly important to assist students to find a suitable career path and smooth the transition from university into employment. Graduate work destinations are a key measure of a university’s success.

Law graduate tracking study, NSW. Click to learn more about our services. Image: Getty Images.

What makes students, employees and academics flock to a university? Why do some campuses thrive while others dwindle? As universities grow, how can campuses make the most of their assets, land and location? What do students need to feel safe and able to succeed on campus?

Our brightest minds have come together to identify 10 key insights for universities to meet the future.

Download your copy of ‘Shaping universities of the future’ below.