Chapter 2
Blended Living

The Dynamic Context Of Campus Decision-making in Europe

Even before the game-changing year 2020, emerging trends and developments had made the decisions about the learning and working environment increasingly complex. University boards, campus managers and higher education policy makers have the difficult task to strive for resource-efficient strategies while safeguarding public goals. Based on an exploration of past, present and future demand, TU Delft’s research The European Campus: Management and Information (2019) and on-going research about the campus of the future (2020) draw the following lessons to support and inspire European campus managers in their crucial task.

Universities’ mission of advancing learning and generating (technological) innovation for society has remained intact for centuries and today’s campus strategies are explicitly supporting this mission.

Universities have been characterised for being prestigious research institutions, advancing the development of learning and technologies with a societal purpose. They have evolved into  important players in the knowledge-based economy and society, which are shaped by competition and collaboration. The predominant focus of current campus strategies on stimulating innovation explicitly supports this mission.

(Inter)national relations, competition, funding, politics and societal issues determine the increasingly dynamic context in which universities operate.

Universities  are finding new ways to remain competitive in the global higher education landscape. To achieve their goals, universities have been reconsidering their 1) purposes and roles in society; 2) international and transnational relations; 3) sources of funding for education and research; 4) relationships with other universities, market and third-sector parties; 5)  digital technologies supporting their primary processes; and 6) segmentation of students and workforce. These variables are the most critical for the university of the future, and consequently for the campus of the future. Most of them require strategic choice in an increasingly uncertain context. While these findings are based on a literature review, into (trends and) scenarios in 2019, the year 2020 only made the future more uncertain. The nearly 100% virtual campus accelerated decisions about digital technologies (5), but made universities rethink practically every other decision. In 2020, scenario planning is even more relevant to accommodate change.

To address the manifold challenges faced by universities now and in the future, managers (must) acknowledge the interrelation of the multiple perspectives in campus management.  

Our researches establish links between the uncertainties summarised above and institutional, economic, social and environmental developments that correspond to the four perspectives on campus management: organisational, financial, functional and physical. University- and campus managers can develop their own scenarios, given their particular institutional, economic, social and environmental development by selecting those uncertainties that are critical to them and determine ranges per uncertainty. These uncertainties are interrelated aspects defining the future of higher education. Altogether, these findings emphasized the relevance of the multiperspective approach in campus management. This is particularly important when anticipating the multiple trends that affect the organisation, community, finance and sustainability of universities. This was illustrated by campus managers that provided feedback on this research, addressing the following as the most familiar challenges:  

  • Universities are part of merging processes that increase the complexity of campus portfolio management.
  • Digital transformations influence campus use and the transformation of the built environment.  
  • Smart sustainable concepts are needed to cope with the increased amount of university buildings that are in need of renovation.  
  • Increased partnerships with local public and private parties in campus development.
  • Sustainable preservation of campus heritage buildings.
  • Limited funding to cope with the costs of maintaining the campus.
  • Modernisation versus healthy and user-friendly environments.

In this context, campus managers regard the interrelation of the multiple perspectives affecting strategic campuses management (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. Drivers influencing the changing demand in universities categorised by campus management perspectives (Curvelo Magdaniel et al. 2019)

Identity, sustainability, location, collaboration, flexibility, digitalisation and health are shaping the physical campus in a combination of traditional, network and virtual arrangements.  

By scanning the projects transforming the current campus in Europe, this research grouped different interventions in eight campus labels that are linked to 12 strategic themes and three campus models identified in previous research. These labels are 1) Co-campuses; 2) Wow-campuses; 3) Eco-campuses; 4) Open-campuses; 5) Urban-campuses; 6) Home-campuses; 7) Smart-campuses and 8) Zen-campuses. The current campus projects are rather heterogeneous in their themes (between 2 and 7 themes each as can be seen in Figure 2). Accordingly, investing in state-of-theart laboratories (Theme 4) and rethinking the academic workplace (Theme 1) are the most popular strategic themes present in at least four categories of campus projects. The comprehensive review of projects that are transforming the current campus also confirmed the proposition that the campus of the future will be a combination of traditional, network and virtual spatial arrangements as suggested by Den Heijer et al. (2016) and elaborated upon in Den Heijer (2020).

Figure 2. Overview of campus projects categories in relation to campus models (Curvelo Magdaniel et al. 2019)

Campus managers can use the overview of campus projects as a catalogue of references.  

The collection of campus projects is demonstrating organisational, financial, physical and functional drivers that shape the future demand in universities. The physical driver “quality of place” is the most common, supported by projects in five of the eight groups, followed by “distinctiveness” also as physical driver, “identity” as organisational driver and “productivity” as functional driver. Campus managers can use the catalogue of reference projects to determine to which extent their current and planned interventions align with the changing demand in the higher education landscape; and/or match their ideal campus models. In (post-)pandemic times, this is even more relevant and urgent than we could have imagined before 2020.


Curvelo Magdaniel, F., den Heijer, A., & Arkesteijn, M. (2019). The European Campus: Management and Information. TU Delft Open.

Den Heijer, A., Arkesteijn, M., de Jong, P., & de Bruyne, E. (2016). Campus NL: Investeren in de toekomst. TU Delft, Architecture, Management in the Built Environment.

Den Heijer, A. (2020), Campus of the future - managing a matter of solid, liquid and gas. TU Delft, Architecture, Management in the Built Environment.

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