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New Arup report imagines the Campus of the Future

Kate Addlington Kate Adlington UKIMEA Press Office,London
3 July 2018

A new Arup report calls for a rethink of the design and operation of higher education facilities to prepare for a new era of learning, one that remains viable as budgets decline yet pressure mounts to deliver exceptional experiences.

These changes are needed as the student body becomes more diverse and has greater expectations. Higher education facilities are shifting away from solely focusing on the young before they begin their careers to supporting older workers updating their skills, as they keep abreast of technological innovations. 

The higher education sector is undergoing significant change, as social, technological and economic trends reshape how, what and where university students learn. There is a new relevance to the campus, in which the needs of both short-term and life-long learners must be at the core of design practices and operational policies. Brave, new approaches to resource management, sustained by automation and innovative technology, will be key to future proofing these facilities now and in the future. ” Chris Luebkeman Chris Luebkeman Global Foresight, Research and Innovation Leader

The report, Campus of the Future, also finds that, despite the growth in online learning, on-campus learning will remain central to the provision of higher education. Yet, with more varied learning methods than ever before, the requirements for campus buildings are being redefined. Traditional lecture halls are already less relevant as demand grows for flexible cross-disciplinary workplaces, quiet spaces, labs and innovation hubs.


Higher Education leaders, designers, developers and facility managers must maximise opportunities to become more adaptable and resilient in the face of changes. The report highlights a number of approaches they should consider including: 

  • Blurring the ‘learn-life’ boundaries – the boundaries between life and learning are continuously blurring. This, together with increased autonomy of students to choose where and how they want to research or study, is leading to a need to offer a holistic work-life experience on campus. Integrating lockers for online shopping, grocery deliveries, childcare or laundry services can help facilitate the more mundane aspects of student life increasing the time they spend on meaningful activities on campus.

  • Buildings that are flexible by design – there is the need to design spaces that can be transformed on a regular basis, in line with ever-changing curricula and the requirements of students, departments and industry partners. The report identifies advanced techniques, such as digital fabrication and 3D printing as enabling this, making it easier to design structures that can be constructed, deconstructed and then reconstructed. Design strategies should consider the entire life cycle of buildings and look to create adaptable layers that can be easily separated moved and modified.

Universities are the backbone of innovation for regional economies. Understanding how technological advances and social trends are shaping future higher education campuses is key to supporting our clients realise their estates potential. The implications for design, management and governance highlighted in the report can be used to shape discussions with clients and partners. ” Paul Webber Paul Webber UKIMEA Education Leader
  • Making waste work – the report highlights universities as ideal environments to turn more waste into a resource. For example, by-products such as heat can be used by other facilities while solutions such as blue roofs can help harvest rainwater. As decreasing public expenditure impacts many facilities, these design strategies will be essential to future proofing the financial performance of a campus.

  • Using data to maximise facilities – one major issue for universities is the low use-rate of spaces and facilities. A campus-wide Internet of Things network, supported by AI and machine learning algorithms, can help address this – allowing a diverse range of real-time data to be gathered and assimilated. From real-time building usage data, to environmental data such as air quality and footfall, Higher Education providers will know in advance which facilities are used across daily, weekly or monthly cycles. This will allow them to maximise resource consumption and make their facilities available to private or public organisations, using a model similar to the likes of WeWork.

  • Being a catalyst for innovation – academic institutions have a key role to play in facilitating the creation and diffusion of knowledge. Proximity to the local business community can help foster regional innovation and provide employment and learning opportunities for students. To enable both cross-departmental and external collaboration, buildings should be open and inviting with multi-functional and adaptable spaces for co-working. 

RMIT New Academic Street was transformed into a dynamic, future-looking city campus with flexible student hubs and community areas. Arup architects and engineers opened the campus to the surrounding streetscape, creating light-filled laneways, glass-roofed arcades, rooftop urban spaces and new learning spaces. Credit: Kim Johnson