Student city = knowledge city

by Alexandra den Heijer

In the beginning of November I visited Belgian student city Ghent with DUWO (student housing), to compare the Belgian and Dutch student housing market. Ghent has a huge and still growing student population – approaching 70.000 (population Ghent is about 250.000). The cities of Ghent and Leuven have Belgium’s largest student populations: essential for the regional and national knowledge economy. Student housing is a ‘critical chain’ in the transition from a student city to a knowledge city. When students live in a city, they are more likely to get attached to the city, both socially and economically.

Student city Ghent in Belgium - view from the famous university library building "boekentoren" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boekentoren

Student city Ghent in Belgium – view from the famous university library building “boekentoren

Both the Ghent University and the city of Gent have policies (and strategies) to accommodate national and international students within the city boundaries. We visited different projects. The photos below show two examples: a public-private partnership with the university as a client (campus Kantienberg) and a private initiative (“Ter Plaeten UpKot”).

private student housing project in Ghent by Upgrade Estate http://www.upgrade-estate.be/studentenhuis/omschrijvingen/terplaetenupkot.php

private student housing project in Ghent – “Ter Plaeten UpKot” – by Upgrade Estate

public-private student housing project Kantienberg, client: Ghent University - http://www.bamppp.com/projects/ppp-kantienberg

public-private student housing project Kantienberg, client: Ghent University

The crucial role of student housing in “student cities becoming knowledge cities” was also confirmed by speakers of the conference Class of 2020 (see website for report and more information). And – equally important – what happens after they graduate? Do they (have to) leave their student city (because there is no alumni housing strategy)? The city of Ghent is also struggling with that issue: where do our alumni go and what do we have to do to keep this talent for “Ghent knowledge city”? (more info about the potential of Ghent: website)

At another conference in November – Campus 2020 – my colleague and PhD student Flavia Curvelo Magdaniel presented her ‘univer-city research’, highlighting our observation and vision that the campus is no isolated area, but a network of functions – see figure below.

the campus as a network of functions - source: Flavia Curvelo Magdaniel, 2012 (presented at conference "Campus 2020", November 22, 2012)

source: Flavia Curvelo Magdaniel, 2012 (presented at conference “Campus 2020”, November 22, 2012)

Coming back on the title of this post: “student city = knowledge city”. This is true if a city succeeds in not only attracting students for higher education, but also in retaining the talent for economic growth. Student housing and ‘alumni housing’ appears to be a critical chain. For papers and articles on this subject, see PUBLICATIONS and RELATED RESEARCH.

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