Next stage of research project ‘Campus spaces and places: Impact on student outcomes’

24 November 2023      Martin Higgs, AUDE Communications and Campaigns Manager

Learning is a social process. Providing open-access, informal environments to support this process is becoming an increasingly important element of the campus experience. These environments offer a range of open, screened and enclosed settings where individuals and groups can come together to participate in a wide range of learning activities, seek support, relax.

We are delighted to be able to announce that we are able to move onto the next stage of the research project ‘Campus spaces and places: Impact on student outcomes’, that was initiated and funded by the consortium of AUDE, UDF (University Design Forum) and Willmott Dixon, by the award of the research opportunity for the next stage of the project to the Cardiff University/FiD research group - Dr Hiral Patel (Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University); Dr Katherine Quinn (School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University); Fiona Duggan (FID Space).

The research group will explore the following:

  • Research Question 1: What are the types of social learning spaces that enhance students' learning experiences?
  • Research Question 2: What factors influence the design of social learning spaces?
  • Research Question 3: What factors influence the management and use of social learning spaces?

through a qualitative research methodology, drawing strongly on ethnographic sensibilities of developing an in-depth understanding of context. They will be integrating data gathered in online settings with live in situ data and engagement as well as reusing/revisiting ethnographic data.

The team will develop a typology of social learning spaces that will identify different types of spaces that are needed on campus for an enhanced learning experience; and create a process guide for designing and managing those spaces. They will carry out a comparative qualitative study between four empirical research sites to explore different types of spaces and how those spaces were used over different times of the year. The outcomes of this study will enable further research and discourse on the value of social learning spaces for creating a vibrant academic environment.

This team convinced the steering group especially through their practical approach, full understanding and enhancing of the research question, timeline (12 months) and budget. The research output will be the SLS Guide – the Design & Management of Social Learning Spaces for University Campuses.

The consortium of AUDE, Willmott Dixon believes this research initiative can enable a step-change in the campus experience that universities provide for students (and staff) in the midst of climate-emergency, cost-of-living crisis and the deeper existential challenges facing the higher education sector.

Jane Harrison-White, AUDE Executive Director said: ‘We are delighted to have received such a strong proposal from the Cardiff team and look forward to continued partnership with UDF and Willmott Dixon to help us improve our understanding of student needs on campus. In a year where we continue to focus so much of our effort on net zero carbon, and where we have risked being knocked off course by RAAC, it is important to remember that creating great spaces that help us attract and retain both students and staff is fundamental to success as estates teams.’

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