Bricks and technology have the power to wow students

June 18, 2004

Campus buildings with a "wow factor" can increase a university's prospects of attracting and retaining staff and students, research due to be published next month will reveal.

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment will report next month that the design of buildings can be a key factor in the recruitment of students.

But the Cabe report is expected to emphasise that wow-factor buildings must also be practical for the academics and students who use them.

The Cabe research project, backed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Association of University Directors of Estates, has been led by David Chiddick, vice-chancellor of Lincoln University.

Professor Chiddick said: "The quality of buildings is incredibly important in terms of the recruitment and retention.

"The corollary to that is that a poorly designed building that doesn't work in terms of recruiting staff or retaining students can have a pretty demoralising effect on everybody and a depreciating effect, particularly if a campus is an intrinsic part of the local economy."

Professor Chiddick was one of the keynote speakers at a conference about university infrastructure in London last week, predicting the development of "wireless campuses".

Students carrying mobile technology might see universities turn away from creating computer labs and see libraries used again for books alone, he said.

But Professor Chiddick also suggested that the introduction of fees in 1998 was one factor behind applicants' demands for a broader "student experience" - particularly proximity to city-centre amenities.

The success of universities such as Nottingham, which has seen student numbers rise by 63.1 per cent between 1998 and 2003 was partly to do with being a strong city "brand", compared with the likes of Middlesex, where numbers had fallen by 48.1 per cent, he said.

David Cain, assistant vice-president at Northern Arizona University, also spoke at the conference. He described the in-depth planning behind a £170 million development of the Northern Arizona campus in Flagstaff, including wow-factor buildings and wireless technology.

Do your university buildings "wow" or are they "carbuncles"? Contact: paul.hill@thes.co.uk

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