At the start of each semester, it was always a delightful pleasure to see eager students heading to their classes in impressive university buildings, ready for the first steps in their academic careers. But today, campuses are deserted. The virus has had a massive impact on the use of our spaces. The face-to-face classes are replaced by online classes from bedrooms and kitchen tables, and collaboration often goes through emails and text. We all have to learn, collaborate, concentrate, and relax differently now. Because of the lack of face-to-face interaction, the quality of higher education has suffered tremendously according to the management chair of the University of Amsterdam. Not only the quality of the classes worsened, but also the student life experience, self-study, and collaboration work has taken a downturn. Many students live with a limited budget in a single room apartment and lack facilities like a proper desk, proper chair, Wifi connection, and/or computer. Many students are dying to get out of their house and study at the university, but the university buildings have a limited capacity to accommodate that need, sometimes as low as 30% of their normal capacity. Many universities now fear drop-outs as a lack of academic- and social integration is a major predictor of the performance of students. So how could universities use their spaces effectively to sustain the quality of higher education?
Many, if not all, classes are now given online. Students and teachers attend and provide classes from somewhere in their homes. The first effect of this is that it leads to relatively empty university buildings. Empty yet open buildings lead to a lot of unnecessary costs when it comes to heating, cleaning, maintenance etcetera.