Campus management challenges in Europe

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference


Ever since the global crisis of 2008, which resulted in severe economic downturn, universities have increasingly been called upon to prove the effectiveness and efficiency with which they employ their resources. Although campuses (from single buildings to a large portfolio) are one of the key resources in the global ‘battle for brains’, upon which teaching, research, knowledge sharing and the innovation for socioeconomic development depend, the issue has only captured limited attention among higher education leaders, managers and policy-makers. There is an urgent need to understand how the campuses can be used, developed and managed to meet universities ambitions.
Campus management is a complex process which should prepare each university (regardless of its specialisation – science, technology, arts and/or humanities) for the needs of tomorrow’s knowledge-based economy. Many universities, however, do not oversee the financial, organisational, functional and environmental consequences of their campus decisions. Campuses can influence universities’ competitive advantage by attracting and retaining talent or by efficient allocation of (public) financial resources. They may also contribute to greater productivity by providing functional environments for students and staff; the quality and quantity of campus facilities (class sizes, workplace design, availability of informal meeting spaces, use of ICT for teaching and learning, etc.) influence the ways in which research and education are performed, and affect the well-being of campus users. They are also important for smart and sustainable development.
In Europe, where many of the oldest universities in the world operate, the problem deserves particular attention and debate. Higher education institutions have inherited not only a thousand-year-long tradition, but also many heritage buildings – outdated and dysfunctional. Their sustainable transformation and adaptation to the changing technological, functional, environmental and social requirements are a major challenge, which is made even greater by increased student mobility causing ‘brain drain’ in some countries and an overwhelming number of students in others.
The falling amount of public funds for education aggravates the problem. Universities are being expected to do more with less. There is a shift in some countries from traditional publicly funded institutions to hybrid partnerships, in order to encourage them to operate more efficiently, also in the sphere of their infrastructure (through asset sharing within the institution, the sale of surplus estate, or space use optimisation). In other countries, policy makers increasingly link funding to institutional performance and press to enhance real estate accountability and transparency to the primary stakeholders – the students, the faculty, the university partners and the public. There are also countries in Europe where merging processes take place that make it necessary to manage a campus portfolio scattered across the whole country. These are designed to boost the competitiveness and visibility of the university (its standing in international ranking lists).
Moreover, renovation and operating costs of campuses are growing in many European countries. Not infrequently, campus maintenance absorbs on average around 20% of HEI costs, and is the second highest cost after staff salaries.

Period18 Oct 201819 Oct 2018
Held atEUA
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • campus management
  • Europe
  • resource efficiency