2020 was the future

by Alexandra den Heijer

When I started studying campuses – in the nineties – 2020 was “the long term”. Many visions of the future were called “Campus 2020” … and even personally, I considered 2020 the long term, because it was the year that I would turn 50.

photo pages Delft Integraal (Alexandra den Heijer by Sam Rentmeester)

interview for Delft Integraal, given January 9, 2020, published March 31 – “The university needs to facilitate silence” – https://www.tudelft.nl/en/delft-outlook/articles/maart-2020-start-ups/the-university-needs-to-facilitate-silence/ – photos by Sam Rentmeester

In the first week of 2020 I was interviewed about the today’s challenges and – of course – the future. This interview was published a few days ago… I read it again in the current corona reality… Campus 2020 seemed more unpredictable than we ever imagined.

Nonetheless, “the much needed silence” that I emphasise might be found at workplaces at home, but probably only for the happy few. In my inaugural speech “Campus matters” I summed up the campus workplace qualities that matter most: silence, community for social needs and for discipline (peer pressure). At home, we struggle to stick to the 9-to-5 working day, with negative consequences for a healthy work-life balance.

In December 2019, the Dutch association of universities (VSNU) and I brainstormed about a possible new research project “Campus 2020”, which also marked the 25-year campus ownership status of Dutch universities. The title of that project has a whole new meaning now…

On this day with a beautiful date “04-04-2020” I will start a LinkedIn group “Campus 2020” – on behalf of our CAMPUS RESEARCH TEAM – which will share insights from three campus development stages that are relevant now:

  1. “From bricks to 100% clicks” – what is happening on (the virtual) campus now?
  2. “Back to campus” – what is going to happen, when the campus lockdowns are over?
  3. “What’s next?” – how will higher education (and research) be affected by the world-wide corona crisis? what does this mean for the campus of the future?

A higher education system change is inevitable: what will happen to international student mobility, networks, funding … not to mention the content of education and research? The first two development stages can also be recognised in my previous blog post: (1) from solid through liquid to gas, (2) from gas back to liquid and solid.

Campus 2020 was more unpredictable than anyone could have imagined… I celebrated my 50th birthday on campus, in the Espressobar, sharing the last cappuccinos that were served in a very long time. It was Friday the 13th of March. After that day, Delft campus became 100% virtual…


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