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Urban Studies students conduct practical research into the Humanities Campus: ‘It needs lots of green spaces and light’

Over the past few months, Urban Studies students have been helping to think about the realisation of the Humanities Campus. To test their knowledge in practice, the future urban specialists gave advice on several different aspects, including thermal energy storage and the new central campus building.

‘Urban Studies aims to give third-year students some experience of project management,’ says lecturer Katja Lubina. ‘This means you’re not just studying the theory, but also applying it to a real-life case that has something to do with the study programme. I’m always on the look-out for new cases with interesting partners.’

Two questions about the Humanities Campus

This year she didn’t have to look far to find them. The renovation and reconstruction of the various Humanities buildings raised two issues that were ideal for students. ‘The first was about the new thermal energy storage system that’s currently being built,’ says Carola Koetsier, Humanities Campus project manager. ‘We wanted to know how the implementation went at other universities, how we could communicate about it and whether we could involve the neighbourhood. The second issue relates to the new building that’s planned on the Lipsius site, which students will use intensively. We conducted a survey eight or nine years ago, asking about facilities that students would like in a central building and how we could fulfil their wishes. We wanted to check whether what they wrote then is still relevant now.’

In groups of seven, the students set to work on one of the projects. A highly instructive experience, reports Comar Beulens, a project participant. ‘Working on a real project together, instead of the usual academic approach, created a great new dynamic. Along with my group, I studied the process of implementing a thermal energy storage system at other universities, and we also looked at how students prefer to be kept up-to-date with all the developments in the area of thermal energy storage. We found that they see email as very important. This was quite surprising, because everyone always thinks we never actually check our email.’

Implementing student recommendations

‘Although we had indeed emailed the staff about the inconvenience caused by installation of the system, we hadn’t emailed the students,’ recalls Koetsier. ‘We need to focus on this communication with students in future. As well as sending emails, we can also put up posters, for example, to explain more clearly what the system entails. I’ve also made an appointment with the Real Estate department to see how we can use the other results.’

The results relating to the ‘new Lipsius’ should in any case be easy to incorporate in the implementation. ‘We thought that students’ wishes might have changed after Covid, but the survey revealed that their most important requirements are lots of light and green spaces,’ says Koetsier. ‘These were already in the plans, so it’s good to have this confirmation.’

‘New projects wanted’

The three interviewees look back with satisfaction on these successful projects. Lubina is even making cautious plans for the year ahead. ‘It’s quite challenging to find good projects, especially because the number of students is growing. So if anyone is aware of an interesting project for the second semester of next year, please let me know!’

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