Reimagining campuses of the future
Prof. Tuan highlights the importance to ensure the underprivileged are not deprived of education opportunities.
How important is the university campus? Before the pandemic, campuses were at the heart of the university experience. But national lockdowns and the pivot online have left many universities reimagining the future of their physical spaces.
During a dialogue in The Internationalist podcast of The Association of Commonwealth Universities on ‘The Future of the Campus’, Prof. Rocky S. Tuan, Vice-Chancellor and President of CUHK, considered that being on a university campus is a formative experience for students. For 18-to-22-year-olds, attending university means being in the company of a high concentration of people who are in the same age group, are going through similar biological and social changes, and are all actively searching for personal goals and aspirations in life. Removing the physical campus would seriously compromise this experience and put this demographic population at a disadvantage.
Prof. Tuan adopted a cost-benefit analysis when assessing campus-based learning and the requisite campus facilities. Some courses are easier to translate to online delivery, while other subjects, such as chemistry, require practical and hands-on instructions and interactions which cannot always be replicated online. ‘We need to think twice about building very large halls to accommodate thousands of students, but we need to keep important facilities such as dormitories to allow students to truly experience university life.’
In particular, Prof. Tuan highlighted the importance for universities to uphold equity, access and inclusion in higher education and to ensure the underprivileged are not deprived of education opportunities. ‘For us, who are running universities, this is our job. We have to make sure that no one is left behind.’
He projected that universities will see more students in their 40’s or 50’s, who are ‘empty nesters’ seeking new opportunities or those undergoing career changes. Universities have to think creatively to cater to the needs of a different group of students, whether it be campus facilities or the type of education offering.
For more on this discussion, please listen to the podcast.