Adam Graham and Michael Gibson at Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) have produced a short paper entitled “Delivering the campus of the future” where it talks about what the university campus of the future might look like in a post-COVID world. Are there lessons for VET here? Let’s see!
They “wondered what challenges universities are anticipating as they attempt to deliver the kind of campus that their current students want and that will meet the needs of students and staff into the future.”
What they learnt
Lesson 1: “The physical campus will be smaller and smarter – but still the social heart”
COVID bought both VET and HE to focus more heavily on online and remote learning. However, those in the universities they spoke to believe that “the physical campus still has a critical role to play in the overall student experience.” This is because the on-campus experience is particularly important for students, including international students, “and will continue to bring people together for face-to-face learning, collaborative work and social interaction.”
This may involve repurposed libraries and learning spaces, as well as social spaces. Like VET, “courses that have practical components will continue to require physical infrastructure such as laboratories and workshop space.”
The authors believe that it is likely that campus footprints will shrink and underutilised spaces will be “repurposed to meet current and future needs.” And there will be moves to make them more environmentally sustainable.
And they also note:
“A key feature of the campus of the future will be greater collaboration with industry to activate surplus space, offer integrated learning opportunities for students, enable research collaborations, and provide a source of revenue.”
Lesson 2: Capital investment will need to flow into digital as well as physical infrastructure
This is an important message for both VET providers and governments. Students will want “flexibility and choice of physical and digital learning environments,” the authors suggest, and this will mean more spending on digital infrastructure – including “to bolster aging digital platforms and invest in better systems for student management and interactive learning.” They are suggesting that the investment split to move from its present focus on the physical to be more likely to be around 50:50%.
Capital outlays “on the physical campus over the short to medium term is likely to focus on maintaining existing facilities, adapting facilities to improve amenity, and upgrading existing facilities to support blended learning formats for a seamless hybrid physical and online learning experience,” they believe. Thus, the “business case for new investment in a ‘bricks and mortar’ capital project will be closely scrutinized.”
Lesson 3: Achieving this will not be without its challenges!
This will require universities to “achieve cost-efficiencies or reduce their campus overheads.” To overcome these challenges, they will need to do four things:
- Identify what facilities are no longer required or fit for purpose
- Develop a commercial model to support industry co-location
- Share infrastructure and create inter-institutional partnerships to reduce duplication, and
- Fund new and existing research infrastructure.
There has been talk about whether VET, and maybe TAFE in particular, should be more into the research game – particularly that related to research which is applied and industry relevant. The Victorian TAFE Association took a look at this a while ago. There is information on their website (see the applied research heading) and there is an introductory guide to it that you can access here.
One thing the authors are confident of is that change is coming for universities and their campuses, but are there messages for VET here too?