Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Changes to universities and campuses

Geoff Hanmer's article in The Conversation is titled "A century that profoundly changed universities and their campuses", but I have no idea which hundred years is being referred to.

Hanmer starts on July 16 1945 with the first a bomb. As he notes this was largely the product of universities. However, that was not a new development, with universities contributing to other weapons development in WWII, for cryptography, radar, medicine, and other fields. Waiting to see inside the reactor at Lucas Heights I once bumped into Professor Bennett, who helped build the world's first practical stored program electronic computer. He commented that some of his generation went into radar like him during WWII, and some nuclear energy. 

Hanmer claims that the library was the major capital commitment for universities before WWI, but after it was laboratories and equipment for them. I find this surprising, as I would have thought buildings were the major cost. Also this doesn't include salaries for staff, which did and still do make up the major component of coast for universities, both for research and teaching. 

As Hammer points out, post WWII new Australian campuses were well outside city centers. To some extent that has now been reversed, with universities now establishing city campuses, in high rise buildings. The existing city campuses are also being built up, with accommodation, and entertainment, as well as classrooms, offices, and labs.

Hammer comments that "Broad-acre campuses are popular with students", but how much time do students spend on campus? I never set foot on the campuses of the last two universities I studied at (despite having to pay a fee to maintain the ovals at one of them). 

Hammer ended by commenting broad-acre campuses are also popular with companies. I didn't really see what this had to do with universities. Also this is a very limited analysis, not considering distributed campuses, or the effect of COVID-19 in popularizing of working, and studying remotely. A university will need some office space for a cadre of staff, and perhaps to help market the image of a university, but how much space does it actually need for teaching and research? Could the research facilities be better collocated with industrial clients? The best place for students, I suggest, is in a workplace, and the best place for researchers is in the industry, or field?

Hammer's article includes a photo of the National University of Singapore, with its generous campus. However, this doesn't mention the many other educational facilities crammed into much tighter spaces all over Singapore. Also it doesn't mention that Singapore was a leader in planning for online learning after SARS-COVID-1.

In my 2020 talk on "Higher education after COVID-19", I suggested  the High End Campus of The Future Looks Like a Mall, the Medium Level Campus Looks Like an Office Block, the Work Integrated Learning Campus a Hotel, or a Government Agency, and the Multi University Campus Building.

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