Education In Focus Magazine

Beyond bricks and mortar: the campus in 2040

Future Campus made by Barend Last with Midjourney

Words: Evelyne Hermans, SURF

Technological progress is rapidly affecting education. Virtual classrooms are becoming more familiar every day and it won’t be long before generative AI plays as big a role in our lives as the smartphone. This raises the question: if physical and digital worlds are increasingly merging, what will the campus look like in 2040?

To answer this question, SURF launched the Future Campus 2040 project in 2023. The project marks one of SURF’s first major endeavours to not only spotlight the campus within its agenda, but also to broadly engage institutions in this dialogue.

During the project, SURF conducted a thorough analysis of technological and educational trends, as well as anticipated developments in the areas of sustainability, nature and well-being. This led to a final report with four scenarios that provide insights into possible developments of the campus in 2040. It can be used by institutions and organisations to better prepare for the future.

The scenarios at a glance

The growth scenario: In this scenario, the campus in 2040 is a hub of economic and technological progress, blending physical and digital learning through smart technologies. While fostering innovation, it faces challenges in student privacy and adapting to rapid changes. It is the most logical scenario we can easily envision.

The discipline scenario: By 2040, the campus is a hub with green spaces and energy-efficient buildings, emphasising regulations, public values, and sustainability. Sustainability and inclusiveness are no longer choices, but obligations. Government leads educational initiatives, while lecturers, supported by tech, form the core of the learning process. This strikes a new balance between human values and technological progress.

The transformation scenario: The 2040 campus has transformed into a flexible, personalised ecosystem. The interdisciplinary hub offers students dynamic learning journeys, aided by AI-coached lecturers, with a focus on innovation, creativity, and sustainability. Students follow tailored learning programs in an authentic context, in which the analogue and digital are seamlessly integrated.

The collapse scenario: In 2040, the campus represents technology dominance and decline. The physical campus is in disrepair due to a lack of resources and decision making. The virtual learning environment has been taken over by tech giants and shows an isolating landscape in which personal connection and autonomy have made way for profit and control. In this scenario, the balance between human values and tech progress has been erased.

Shape your own future

Nobody knows what the future is going to look like, but together we can try to shape the most desirable future ourselves, and at the same time arm ourselves against undesirable situations. In order to achieve this, we have to make strategic choices in the here and now that anticipate all possible scenarios. Whether you are having new buildings constructed or adopting new online learning environments, you have to be aware that the future is already happening and factor this into your decisions now.

How? Reach out to other institutions who are struggling with the same questions. Contact the people of SURF’s Future Campus 2040 project or download our toolkit. Together we can devise strategic initiatives to ensure we can all face the future with confidence.

GÉANT CONNECT Magazine - CONNECT 46 -TNC24This article is featured on CONNECT 46, the latest issue of the GÉANT CONNECT Magazine!

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