Growing by Degrees

Universities in the future of urban development


Unis1 Unis2



Hopes are high for a future built on expanding higher education. The sector receives strong support from both private interests and government and is part of an international market. Its growth will not just affect individual institutions; it will have huge impacts on towns and cities. Yet academia is undergoing an internal transformation of its own, and its future is far from clear.

Growing By Degrees offers twelve future scenarios each projecting twenty years into the future to ask ‘what if’ certain trajectories of change take hold. Their impacts could be unexpected and greatly contribute to the role of HE in cities. Compiled by experts with a special interest in university building, the scenarios are embedded within a commentary about the academic, social and economic drivers. The text was mostly written before the extent of global financial turmoil became apparent, but in light of the events of 2008, the speculations it offers are particularly productive.

Section 1

The Place and Space of Higher Education
Lays out current trends. These suggest that in the future the sector will be internationalised but also fragmented. It will produce a variety of urban experiences. Who will benefit most? Under what conditions might iconic campus architecture and purpose-built student accommodation turn out to be good investments?

Section 2

Change Comes to Town
The UK’s student population may grow, but we cannot be sure of the consequences. If living at home and working for pay continue to increase, or if international students fail to come to Britain, what will the relationship between ‘town’ and ‘gown’ look like then? How do environmental sustainability considerations affect our options?

Section 3

The Market Rises Again
Given the significance of education and research for regional development, universities are substantial players in economic and political life, producing significant effects on urban infrastructure as a whole. What forms of inclusion and exclusion might this engender? How will technologies, for example in libraries, be used in the future?

Section 4

Life-Long and Around-the-Clock
Shifts in the life-course and expectations of educational services are the focus of this chapter. Demographic factors combined with the costs of building havealready put pressure on educational resources. Is the solution to turn education into something that is dispersed throughout society and/or linked to the workplace? What would this demand of architecture and planning?

Section 5

The Role of Community, the Place of Technology
Looks at integrating expansion to fit urban development more broadly. How will virtual networks combine with face-to-face activities and geographical space? What forms of collaboration are likely to serve sustainable and inclusive ends and what might these mean for how universities evolve?

Growing By Degrees concludes with an invitation to think carefully and critically about planning for higher education and the forms of architectural production associated with it.


Uni events1

Building Futures with regional partners has embarked on a live programme of seminars that brings together HE management and delivery bodies with their civic and business counterparts. The purpose of these events is to use Growing By Degrees as the mechanism for a futures workshop, testing the scenarios and encouraging greater creative thinking in how HE ambitions might be harnessed for greater city wide benefit by 2029 and beyond.




For more information on Growing By Degrees contact