Campus NL 2023-2027: research for and by universities

News - 14 March 2023 - Communication BK

Universities in the Netherlands face a number of common challenges in managing their campuses. These include dilemmas concerning hybrid working and studying , dynamics in the numbers of incoming students, the shortage of (student) housing, sustainability and a healthy work environment. Over the next four years, the Campus NL research project will bring together these challenges to make campus management at each of the 14 Dutch universities more effective and efficient.

Following the success of Campus NL research in 2016, the TU Delft Campus Research Team led by Alexandra den Heijer and Monique Arkesteijn will start a 4-year Campus NL research process in 2023. Science and practice will work closely together in this process of knowledge sharing.

Open Data campus management

Policy makers, designers and researchers working on campus development and management want to keep up with contemporary (international) trends. For both theory and practice, access to the most up-to-date campus data is crucial. Den Heijer: "The various crises - including the corona pandemic, energy prices, material scarcity, staff shortages - have only reinforced the collective demand for relevant information on campus management. There is even more reason to better capture the knowledge and experience of 14 universities, collect campus data and make it more comparable." Also, with the securing of a Fair Data Fund 2022 from 4TU.ResearchData, the Campus NL project will be able to better align the demand for and supply of data for the future campus. "Availability and accessibility of comparable data on area, function, quality and cost is crucial for this project," says Den Heijer.

Campus NL research aims to support decision makers and designers in balancing organisational, financial, functional and physical requirements [illustration: Mark van Huystee for AdH].

Physical versus virtual

Partly because of ever-shrinking budgets and the ever-increasing costs of maintaining (historic) campus real estate, many thought at the beginning of the 21st century that buildings on campus would be replaced step-by-step by a virtual campus. "Campus managers were much more realistic in this: the demand for the virtual campus turned out not to be a replacement demand, but an additional demand. Even more with even less had to be realized. More ambitions and higher costs with fewer funding sources," says researcher Alexandra den Heijer. At the time Den Heijer was about to publish her book "Campus of the future," based on her inaugural address at the end of 2019, corona reality changed the physical campus worldwide into a totally virtual environment. Alexandra: "The campus and its buildings were empty, research and teaching, however, continued 'normally' online but the campus as a physical environment was missed more than ever. The conclusion was that the physical campus definitely mattered. In other words, 'You don't know what you've got until it's gone'. "A campus must also facilitate the network organisations that universities have become and to support the global community that needs a home base to return to. Meeting each other physically on campus remains essential to both the learning process and community we aspire to be as a university."

Decades of campus research as a fundament

Alexandra den Heijer has been researching the development and future of university campuses for decades. Monique Arkesteijn has a legacy on the future of work environments in combination with decision-support systems. Together, they support decision makers on international (university and business) campuses with management information, methods and tools. With their team, they publish on various topics, including campus & city, the sustainable campus, smart campus tools and the campus as a living lab. Alexandra den Heijer continues her research on the campus of the future with the new project Campus NL. This time in an alliance with the 14 Dutch universities.

"Learning from each other, between science and practice and 14 universities among themselves, should further professionalise campus management in practice and further strengthen it as a field of science. It is about generating new knowledge, but also bringing existing knowledge together." says Alexandra.

Data will be collected at each of the 14 Dutch universities for, among other things, a campus dashboard, project database and timeline. Annual publications with insights from collective campus practice and science will also be shared. In addition, lessons will be drawn from foreign universities, similar organisations and alternative models for organising knowledge exchange. All this will come together on a knowledge platform and exchange network for employees. The Campus NL 2023-2027 project will have a new research team, including a new doctoral student and a network of campus contacts at all Dutch universities.

More information

  • Alexandra den Heijer and Monique Arkesteijn of the MBE department are leading the Campus NL 2023-2027 project. They invite colleagues to think along, link their own initiatives or suggest names of possible PhD students or interested parties.
  • Universities of the Netherlands (UNL, formerly VSNU) is the principal on behalf of the 14 universities.
  • View the professors page and staff page Alexandra den Heijer for more information about her research and publications
  • Visit the staff page of Monique Arkesteijn
  • Download the open access book Campus NL 2016 here.
  • The inaugural speech Campus Matters 2019 can be viewed here
  • Book "Campus of the future - managing a matter of solid, liquid and gas" (2021) is available in the TU Delft library - more info here.
  • Read more about the 4TU Fair Data Fund
Header image: When deciding on a campus, goals and means - qualities and costs - must be weighed; the need for information in this regard is great; to this end, Dutch universities are going to join forces (again) in the Campus NL study [illustration Mark van Huystee for AdH].