Stack of university books

Does your campus provide an equitable student experience?

Your campus and the student experience

Student experience is something we are hearing a lot about. What exactly does it mean? 

Students interact with their institution in many different ways, from enrolling online, selecting and attending classes, downloading lectures and attending the on-site gym. Experience needs to be considered from lots of different angles. Importantly, it is about much more than teaching quality

We’ve been looking at experience through a buildings and facilities lens. Students interact with the campus in lots of different ways, from arriving on their bike to sitting in lectures to meeting with friends after class. We are interested in seeing how these spaces help, or hinder, student experience. 

One thing we have certainly noticed is variation in experience relates to social status. Whilst the enrolment of low SES students is up, these students are at higher risk of dropping out. We can see the added pressure these students are under. They..

  •  typically have longer commute times to campus as they can’t afford to live nearby
  •  spend less time on campus due to transport and other issues
  • study part-time so they can work (part-time and online are also risk factors for dropping out)
  • some (in particular indigenous students) have higher levels of health and disability challenges which not all universities cater to

These factors all contribute towards lower social contact, which is directly linked to mental healthOne of the top reasons that students consider leaving university, is that their expectations are not met. The other top factors focus on stress and workload. Students, in fact, have anxiety and mental health issues at a much higher rate than the average population.  

Our universities are managing a hyper diverse range of students. To create an equitable environment we need to understand and cater to these needs. It’s easy to think this isn’t about the physical campus, but in itself it plays a role. Plus dwell and attendance can be increased by addressing these needs.

For instance –  Can students bring and easily prepare their own food? Get to their class on-time with a long commute? Socialise after class and get home easily? Easily meet and mingle with people in spaces where they don’t feel intimidated?

Only 50% of our students feel a sense of belonging to their institution. To ensure students stay, they need to feel they are welcome and that there are not unintentional social-spatial barriers blocking participation. 



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Dr Sam Hall

Dr Sam Hall

Sam is the founder of Spaces Alive. She's an advocate for re-imaging our cities and buildings to prepare for the future of work and study.