Campus 2050: How Will Your Campus Rank in the Age of Innovation?

At the tap of an app, fast-moving companies like Facebook, Uber and Netflix are forever changing the way we come together to live, work and play. What can colleges and universities learn from these innovators of the on-demand economy to stay relevant for the new generations of faculty and students?

With an eye toward the future, our research unearthed a number of significant influences, which we synthesized into three primary themes. Together, they represent the opportunities that tradition-rich institutions will need to embrace to stay relevant in a highly- competitive environment.

By applying established metrics like U.S. News & World Report rankings along with contemporary measures from the Wall Street Journal to these predictions, we identified the physical interventions that will be necessary to have the greatest impact on a campus’ ability to attract the highest- quality students, faculty and staff. They include:

Convergence. It’s happening all around us. From artificial intelligence to the internet of things, the startup mentality has shifted how we interact not only with people but with technology. By 2050, we see a campus where people come together much differently than they do today.

  • Flexible and scalable Collaborative University Building Environments (CUBEs) will improve student engagement and boost graduation and retention rates.
  • Reducing siloed space will free up financial resources to invest in faculty.
  • Distance learning will become a group activity, improving human connections and attracting faculty rock stars.
  • Enticing private businesses onto campus through creative innovation spaces will realize untapped resources.

Resilience. In today’s economy, the key to resiliency is adapting to rapid and disruptive change. High-performing organizations of the future will stay nimble as they scale to meet rapidly- evolving technology and new market demands. The 2050 campuses that thrive will be no different.

  • Dynamic and scalable mixed-use buildings will replace purpose-built structures, attracting innovative businesses and high performing students.
  • Obsolete parking lots will be repurposed for renewable energy or urban farming, easing tight budgets.
  • All spaces will be permeable, adaptable and scalable.

Lifestyle. On-demand options are in high demand. People crave choices that best suit their lifestyle. The 2050 campus will let you customize nearly every aspect of your daily experience.

  • Students and faculty will easily tailor environments to their learning and teaching styles, improving graduation outcomes.
  • Un-plugged zones, meditation pods, and nutrition stations will promote wellness and enhance student performance.
  • Distributed healthful food options will replace massive centralized dining halls and create unique campus neighborhood experiences.
  • Autonomous mobility systems will replace parking lots with iconic greenspace or renewable energy resources.
  • University-sponsored affordable housing will become a faculty resource while creating living alternatives for students, alumni and life-long learners.

Bringing these innovations to campus has the potential to transform your academic reputation and make your community one of the most sought after in the world. Bringing students, faculty, and the community together for an unforgettable experience will build a solid foundation of dedicated alumni and lifelong learners eager to give back to the university in the continued pursuit of innovation. Request our exclusive Campus 2050 research to learn more.

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Jeff Funovits teams with Amber Luther to lead Populous’ campus planning practice. For more than 25 years, he’s worked with a diverse client base including universities, developers, institutions and government agencies to deliver master plans that have shaped campuses and cities throughout the United States. To start solving your institution’s challenges, connect with him via email.

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