University space – critical to developing university communities
  • January 18, 2019

University space – critical to developing university communities

Feeling part of a community and being connected with like-minded people who share our interests or values is an important element of life satisfaction. For students, this sense of being part of “something”, part of a community, is an integral feature of a successful and happy student experience.

In a recent Alterline study looking at the interplay and relationship between community and spaces on campus, students recognised that whilst a community starts with a group of people with common aims and values, the space that those people occupy also plays an important role in animating those communities.

“Community is the bond between a group of people over shared experiences like shared classes, interests or location”

The very concept of the university campus itself has long been seen as playing an essential part of inspiring and motivating (and intimidating?) students. Today, whilst inspiration and motivation are still important drivers, there is also a focus on student comfort, convenience and access with the provision of a wide variety of spaces for the university community and the numerous sub-communities to thrive and flourish. The campus (or campuses) provide a focal point around which students and staff can develop their communities across the mix of teaching, study and social spaces.

“I’m typically happy when I come to university, I love being on campus as it means I have work to do and friends to do it with”

Where a student lives also impacts on their involvement in university communities with physical proximity enriching students’ experience and engagement with the university. Students living further away engage less with social events on campus, and rely more heavily on the teaching and study spaces to support and encourage their sense of belonging and community.

The communities created around halls of residence can be an important social glue during that all-important first year with some students away from home and self-sufficient for the first time. This becomes less important in later years with postgraduate students being the most likely to have moved beyond the need for this social structure as part of their university experience.

Social spaces on campus play an important role in creating and nurturing campus communities. Increasingly the lines are blurred between social and study spaces with students often studying in designated social spaces and socialising in study spaces.

“The Students Union is a great social space, everyone is always chatting with their friends and the general vibe is very chilled. Students/staff are welcome to play music which contributes to the community feel and it creates a connection between all”

The way that students learn, study and socialise is evolving at pace; the impact and influence of space on community will continue to play an increasingly important role in planning the form and impact of space in the future.

We will be publishing further summary findings from our Space and Community study over the coming months and are also just launching a Future of Student Accommodation research collaboration –more details here.

To find out more about Alterline and our work with university Estates and Accommodation teams, or to arrange a meeting about your strategic priorities for the year ahead and how student experience insight might be able to assist, contact Sharon Steele on 0161 503 5760.