Well-designed learning spaces make students ‘work-ready’.

As new research reveals that students are leaving university without the basic skills to survive in the workplace, both universities and students have some soul-searching to do.

With a three year UK degree costing circa £27,000 in fees alone, it’s no surprise that students are becoming increasingly savvy when making their university selection. The reputation of the university, the quality of the teaching and course content will remain high on the agenda naturally, but so too should educational buildings, interiors and facilities.

Will your students choose to learn in tired, old-fashioned learning environments, or will they opt for one with more modern surroundings, where the design, interiors and furnishing stimulate and support a more open and mobile style of learning? The answer is simple.

Universities already understand the need to provide ‘point of difference’ in a market where student fees are increasingly hard fought for, of course, but some are yet to understand that the learning environments can also help in the bid to make students more work ready.

Many educational establishments have already started looking to the world of work when designing their learning spaces – The University of Wolverhampton and Visions Learning Trust UTC in Burnley are two examples of educators that have designed teaching spaces to reflect the environments their students will eventually work in.

Today’s workplace environments and office interiors aren’t just a sea of desks, now they comprise a breadth of spaces to accommodate the different ways we work and the wide variety of tasks we undertake. From individual work zones, to collaborative spaces that support team work, touch-down spaces for those using mobile technology and break-out areas to give employees down time and space to relax. Much of these changes have been instigated by technology. It’s had a seismic effect on the way we gather and assimilate information – in other words it’s changed how we learn, work and importantly, how we use space. We’re no longer tethered to desks. We are mobile.

The Visions Learning Trust has put the focus on open spaces that can be adapted, easily, to cater for different uses, be that large-scale group engineering projects or individual work and break-out furniture creates much more grown up spaces for both study and relaxation. It’s more in keeping with the professional construction and engineering environments these students will find themselves in when they graduate.

The University of Wolverhampton has made clever use of soft furnishings across a number of its buildings in order to create a more professional image and to put students at ease, encouraging them to dwell longer and make better use of the university facilities.

Classrooms and lecture theatres are no longer the mainstay of university teaching spaces – now it’s about more relaxed and informal breakout spaces that support students as, when and where they want to work be that for collaborative or individual working.

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