I think from a lot of initial confusion we’ve really started bringing our ideas together a bit now. There’s still no real sense of what our ‘outcome’ will be, but I think we have a much stronger idea of what it is we’re targeting. I think we’ve worked harder on identifying a real problem to be solved to hopefully give us the best possible option when considering the outcomes for this project. Luckily for the team we seem to be working really well together – I know sometimes that group work can bring out the best and worst in people, and I can really struggle if I feel like people aren’t pulling their weight as it makes me lose interest too… But fortunately this isn’t the case!
We decided that we really needed to speak to real students, our stakeholders in this project, about how the environment affects them and how they feel they impact their environment. For me it’s very much about creating some understanding that this ‘environment’ buzzword really is a two way street. As a team we’d spoken a lot about how the corporate aspects of the University, it is a business after all, can feel very out of touch with the student (and staff) population. There is a huge disconnect so we really want to work on how to fix this. Ultimately we seem to have decided quite strongly that the initiatives undertaken by the corporate University are well out of reach, and government initiatives that have to be in place regardless of student input are things that we have little influence on. For us, we’ve decided on a central premise – create better student engagement with the environment by making the environment more engaging. This sounds quite simple, but it’s more an issue of how best to implement this on a campus with very little ‘free’ space, and to create something that cuts through so much of the paraphernalia that comes via emails/posters/information around the campus. There’s that statistic about how much information the average person is exposed to in one day, so to simply add to this chaos seems pointless.
We created a questionnaire that asked some pretty basic questions. Things like:-
- Do you like the campus environment?
- What do you think the University does well?
- What do you think the University does badly?
- What would you like to see more of around campus?
- Do you socialise on campus (between lectures etc.)?
- Do you stay on campus to study?
- Do you feel there are enough places for students to relax on campus?
Coming from the relative luxury of the art block, I’ve come to realise that we’re quite spoiled. We have our studios, areas to make tea and coffee, the Heartspace, and just generally an atmosphere of belonging and something that really feels shaped by the students that are in it. As an outsider to the rest of the campus, a lot of the other areas around Llandaf seem clinical and not very student-friendly. For a University with something in the region of 10,000 students it seems important that they feel like they’ve got somewhere to eat their lunch.
One of the most important things we learned from our research is that the majority of the student population believe that seating is a huge issue. For some people they simply said “There is literally nowhere to sit and eat your lunch.” This for me feels like another example of the disconnect between the corporate and its customers – the students just need some more seating, and it’s not given to them.
This issue of seating is one we’re looking to take forward. The idea of spaces for students, shaped by the students that use them. The campus revolves around the thousands of students (and of course staff) that use it, so for us the thing that’s currently top of the list is simply providing somewhere that students can go and eat their lunch.