Modern University Design
19 March, 2024
Modern University Design: How are universities taking inspiration from workplace design?
In today's rapidly evolving educational landscape, universities are redefining traditional learning spaces to align with the dynamic needs of students and the demands of the modern workforce.

Alex Hunt, Senior Partner and Managing Director at Maris, delves into the transformative journey of higher education towards embracing modern university design, a trend reshaping the future of learning.

Universities are embracing the principles of workplace design, mirroring the flexibility and comfort found in modern corporate environments. As the corporate world shifts towards flexible work arrangements, universities are creating dynamic spaces that encourage movement, collaboration, and choice in how students engage with their learning environment.

Modern University Design

The changing working environment

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards adaptable learning environments, as students became accustomed to flexible workspaces at home.

Now, universities are integrating elements of these home environments into campus settings, fostering relaxed atmospheres that cater to diverse learning preferences and activities.

Encouraging students to spend time on campus

Recognising the importance of campus engagement, universities are reimagining traditional lecture-based models. Ultimately, they are asking how they can encourage students to stay on campus instead of just attending for lectures.

By offering varied learning settings such as bleacher seating, high tables, and collaborative booths, higher education space seek to promote spontaneous interactions among students and faculty, transforming campuses into vibrant hubs of intellectual exchange.

Historically we had didactic teaching patterns where a large proportion of courses were delivered in three-hour lectures and then students went off for independent learning.

Now, the realisation is that by having different teaching settings we can have more interactive sessions, content can be distributed before lectures and this time can be used as an opportunity for engagement. It’s about making the campus an interactive hub.

Modern University Design

Preparing students for the future of work

Today’s universities are not only centres of learning but also incubators for future professionals.

The ability to access specialised technology and tools relevant to working life that students wouldn’t otherwise be able to access and experience is an important draw of modern universities preparing students for post-education.

By emulating aspirational workplaces, such as corporate offices, laboratories, mock hospitals and recording studios, institutions prepare students for the realities of their chosen industries.

Through immersive experiences and hands-on learning opportunities, universities equip graduates with the practical skills and business acumen needed for success in the workforce.

Aspirational offices

The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) is a good example. As everyone is doing business courses, they’ve located a campus at East India Docks overlooking Canary Wharf, where many aspire to work. Therefore, we designed the university space around the look and feel of a corporate office, reminding them that this is an experience that’s about their future – they’re not at school anymore.

Creating a business mindset

Similarly, Teesside University wanted to create an environment that felt like a gaming studio, and the fashion school at UCA set out to create a teaching facility that prepared students not only to be good at design, but the business skills associated with fashion as well. They incorporated visual merchandising spaces where leading designers would donate end of season window displays so students could learn about the rationale behind them. For that, we drew on our experiences designing offices for the likes of Gant and brought that expertise into the design of the new university campus.

Modern University Design

Bringing workplace insights to the education environment

Collaboration between educational and commercial design sectors enriches the university experience. Drawing on insights from corporate design projects, we contribute valuable expertise to the evolution of educational facilities.

By bridging the gap between academia and industry, universities stay ahead of the curve, ensuring graduates are well-equipped for the challenges of tomorrow’s workplace.

Overall, there’s a lot of alignment between the education design and commercial design worlds. Modern university design emerges as a catalyst for innovation and student success. By embracing the principles of flexibility, collaboration, and real-world relevance, institutions prepare graduates to thrive in an ever-changing global landscape. As universities continue to evolve, the synergy between education and industry will shape the future of learning for generations to come.

Do you a modern university design that prepares students for their future?

Speak to the team at Maris