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13th April 2010, 8:35am
Learning landscapes and the idea of the university
learning Research into the design and development of new teaching and learning spaces in higher education will be unveiled today at a conference attended by academics from across the UK.

The project has been led by the University of Lincoln under Professor Mike Neary (Principal Researcher) and former vice-chancellor Professor David Chiddick (Project Director), working closely with DEGW, a major international design company, in collaboration with eleven British universities: Edinburgh Napier, Glasgow, Glyndwr, Newcastle, Loughborough, Oxford Brookes, Queen Mary - London, Reading, Warwick, Wolverhampton and York. The project ran from February 2008 until December 2009, and was funded by HEFCE, SFC and HEFCW.

The conference at Queen Mary has attracted more than 150 delegates with academic managers, estate professionals, consultants, architects, designers and students eager to interpret the report’s findings.

Professor Neary said: “The research looked at exemplary teaching and learning spaces in each of these universities, with a focus on the practices that stimulate and support innovation and experimentation. The project has designed a set of development tools by which these practices might be generalised across the HE sector.”

The increasingly diverse offering of global higher education effectively means there is no longer a single prescription or model which represents the learning environment in the 21st century.

Professor David Chiddick added that although not prescient at the start of the project, the need for a critical review of a university offering is ever more important in the light of a reduced publicly funded higher education budget for the foreseeable future.

He added: “Efficient and effective use of space can contribute not only to an enhancement of the academic offering, but it can also contribute significantly to savings other than in the staffing budget.”

The research concluded that academics are making an important contribution as clients and customers of the project management process. These activities include developing a culture of research-based decision making in relation to the design of academic spaces, and promoting a greater sense of critical self-consciousness, or reflexivity, about the learning landscapes within which academics are working.

The research argues that this rethinking might be framed by a fundamental debate about the meaning and purpose of higher education or, as it is already referred to within the academic literature, the ‘idea of the university’.

Key topics to be discussed at the event include exciting learning places: enabling learning, expressing the vision and embedding technology; towards creative learning spaces: rethinking the architecture of post-compulsory education and building the iconic and iconoclastic university.

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