According to the OECD, the number of students around the globe enrolled in higher education is forecast to double to 262 million by 2025.
A rather startling statistic, which begs the question of where will they all live on arrival at their chosen place of learning?
Welcome to the Class of 2020 – a unique gathering of individuals from around the globe who specialise in answering this very question. There is no doubt that the student market is growing and shifting in many different ways; students today are technologically savvy like never before and expecting high standards across the board.
The conference drew a large and keen crowd to the centre of Amsterdam this November. Aptly, we gathered at the Hotel Casa400, which is a shared usage facility as student accommodation for nine months of the year, and a hotel over the summer months and for other special events. This really brought home to me the exceptional housing standards students expect today, compared to my own experience of student halls in the UK in the late 1990s. The building is Wi-Fi enabled throughout, with sophisticated heating and lighting systems, central meeting spaces, a large atrium, funky furniture and even a built-in water filtration system. All very swish indeed.
After a brief musical welcome from local music student Anne-Sophie Halbertsma, the conference kicked off with a welcome from Rudy Stroink, Chairman of the Urban Land Institute, Netherlands, who was our genial host for the day.
Billed as addressing ‘The next European renaissance’, the speakers covered a host of wide-ranging issues from around the globe. From city infrastructure, development opportunities, student experience, connectivity, transport and architecture to the issues of investment funding, capital ventures and return on investment in the student housing market, the issues were broad and, quite frankly, huge to cover in a one day session. However, it made for a great starting point.
Speakers included the Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam, Carolien Gehrels, who spoke about the need to attract new students to the city, “as young talented people are the future of our city, with innovation in their blood.” She also spoke of the need to boost foreign student numbers from 6% to 12%. Andrea Gerosa, with the excellent job title of Chief Thinker at ThinkYoung, spoke about the need to cities to reinvent themselves and used Macau as an example of a place which is changing its image to become the biggest university city in Asia.
Patricia Martinez, meanwhile, President of the Association of Colleges and University Housing Officers International (ACUHO-i), talked about how students today are connecting with each other more quickly and frequently and so universities have to learn to communicate fast too. “We need to be much more nimble; student housing is a whole experience, not just a structure and facility.”
The best thing about this conference was that if felt like an open debate rather than a series of presentations. With barely a power point slide in sight, the audience was engaged throughout. I take my hat of to the Class of 2020, a not-for-profit organisation, for running such a balanced and thought-provoking session. The next event is already booked for 11-12 November 2014, when I am sure there will be a whole new range of topics up for discussion.
For a full review of the event, see the January issue of University Business magazine – click here to subscribe from our home page