T5 SUBPAGE 2: Campus life
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Campus Life

Developed by University of Navarra Team

According to den Heijer (2011), a campus could be defined as a collection of different buildings, green spaces and resources belonging to a HEI, which are available to its students and staff, and which play an important role in enhancing institutional goals. HEIs are responsible for providing support to their students within their campuses through different services. Student support services are all facilities and activities designed to make the learning process easier, and are important in relation to the quality of HE, as they are strongly related to the purpose of education, which goes beyond degrees’ distribution (Kaur, 2016). Services and infrastructure in each university are diverse as they depend of many factors. However, most of the universities dispose of libraries, restaurants and different spaces of leisure and recreation, as students expend a significant part of time in the campus. Even accommodation services are provided for students living in the campus. 

Support services try to ensure a student positive campus life experience, through academic, social and welfare support, provided from different sources (Ciobanu, 2013). Regarding mental health, counselling services as well as different promotion and prevention activities have proven to be effective in enhancing student’s wellbeing and mental health (Conley Durlak, & Dickson, 2013; Conley, Durlak & Kirsch, 2015; Simpson & Ferguson, 2012). Campus infrastructure and services are important as they provide the physical space were students will live their university experiences. That is why it is necessary to ensure that they are inclusive, sustainable, and accessible and face current HE challenges as the transition to virtual education and the construction of a positive campus climate. An inclusive environment will positively affect students’ perception of wellbeing and mental health. 


Greening and Sustainability

As climate change is becoming a global issue that will affect life’s quality, and indeed mental health and wellbeing, questions about campuses infrastructure had been emerging, as well as a variety of initiatives to retraced global warming effects. Different actions had taken place within campuses including increase of recycle, waste reduction, sustainable energy use, etc., all these actions had encouraged the engagement of sustainable practices on campus daily function, making campus greening relevant to ensure sustainability at a HE level (Leal Filho, Shiel, do Paço, & Brandli, 2015). Some studies had shown the positive relation between green spaces perception and better mental health in HE students (Loder, Schwerdtfeger & van Poppel, 2020; Malekinezhad, Courtney, bin Lamit, & Vigani, 2020; Holt, Lombard, Best, Smiley-Smith & Quinn, 2019; Windhorst & Williams, 2015). It is important to continue studying the benefits of natural environments on students’ mental health, and question how campus infrastructure could provide and improve the green zones within campuses, as well as guarantee the transition to sustainable development.


Positive Campus Climate: Diversity and Accessibility

According to Ranking and Reason, (2008), campus climate refers to the different practices, attitudes, behaviors and perceptions experienced by people within the campuses (students and employees), particularly those related to key elements as accessibility, inclusion, as well as abilities and needs at an individual or group level. The studies about campus climate, had been showing the social exclusion, misrepresentation and bad experiences such as racism and micro aggressions that underrepresented students had been facing within campuses (this include women, LGBTQ+ population, cultural and ethnical minorities as well as disabled students), which affects accessibility, retention, campus climate and indeed the campus life experience (Tetreault, Fette, Meidlinger, & Hope, 2013; Garvey, Taylor & Rankin, 2015; Vaccaro, 2010; Rankin & Reason, 2005; Jensen & Deemer, 2019; Turner & Torres, 2006; Strayhorn, 2013; Sánchez, 2017;  Koo, 2021; Einsenman, Rolón-Dow, Freedman, Davison & Yates, 2020). Furthermore, negative campus climate experiences, had been affecting mental health and wellbeing (Woodford & Kulick, 2015; Koo, 2021; Miller, Dika, Nguyen, Woodford & Renn, 2019). That is why campus climate is an essential protective factor that should be improved to encourage students’ mental health and wellbeing (DeAnnah, Byrd & McKinney, 2012; McGuirk & Fazer, 2021).

Campus climate proves that beyond a modern infrastructure and a variety of campus services, it is even more important to provide a secure and positive climate, through an inclusion approach where students and staff perceptions are taking into account. The best way to improve it, it is through the assessment of campus climate where the whole campus population should be involved, not only to provide quantitative data, but also to collect proposals to change it. The figure 1, proposed by Milem, Chang and Antonio (2005) is a framework that provides relevant information about key elements that perpetuate social exclusion, limit diversity and reinforce negative campus climate experiences in the student body. The initiatives to re-structure campus climate should be holistic, so they should be implemented and adapted in all the campus, including curriculum content, pedagogical issues and campus services including accommodation.


Figure 1. Campus Climate Framework
Source: Milem, Chang and Antonio, 2005.


Regarding infrastructure, specially disabled students face some challenges as HEIs, might not be adapted to their physical or cognitive needs, limiting their campus experience. Harbour and Greenberg (2017), suggested that HEIs, should implement a universal design perspective, while pedagogical and infrastructure elements are being built to attend the needs of the student body. Universal Design of Instruction (UDI), is a holistic approach to make courses inclusive, ensuring that students with diverse abilities and backgrounds will be able to learn, participate and demonstrate their knowledge through multiple sources (Burgsthaler, 2008). While UDI is encouraged, different barriers are eliminated or transformed, making easy for all students to take advantage of their abilities as they found flexible ways of learn, participate and been assessed. 


Figure 2. Principles to implement Universal Design of Instruction
Source: Burgsthaler, 2008.

Learning and Teaching spaces

According to Wood, Warwick and Cox (2012), physical spaces can have an impact on the emotions and motivation of students and HE staff. That is why the study of learning and teaching spaces has become an important issue, as it is a way to improve students’ satisfaction with their academic environment and learning process. As the way of learning has changed, the entire infrastructure related to pedagogical spaces is changing as well. Regarding this, the need of educational spaces not only relies on classrooms, it also implies the connection between the purpose and process of learning, as well as the design of learning spaces that ensure a proper environment of learning and socialization between students (Beckers, van der Voordt & Dewulf, 2015) (see figure 3). In the study of Matthews, Andrews and Adams (2011), it was reveal that social learning spaces were useful in contributing to the improvement of students’ engagement as it enhanced active learning, social interaction and sense of belonging. Similarly, Brooks (2011), described that learning spaces that were technologically enhanced have a positive impact on students’ learning, compared with students assisting in a traditional classroom. 


Figure 3. Purpose, process and place framework for HE.
Source: Beckers, van der Voordt & Dewulf, 2015.


For going deep in the understanding and improvement of teaching and learning spaces, it is important to observe how students and teachers configure and reconfigure learning places, combining observational and experiential data (Ellis & Goodyear, 2016). With this, it will be possible to evaluate and think about how campuses spaces are used, how they contribute properly to learning and teaching processes and how to design new spaces to encourage students’ encounters, aiming to construct an affordable campus that provides a satisfactory learning environment and socialization spaces. 


University Extension

The framework of university extension is a way to extend and connect the benefits of HE to their community. In this line, campuses are not only a place for students; they are also a space of interaction and exchange between the university and their social context. Therefore, HEIs may become a social structure of provision of mental health and wellbeing. Some HEIs have been implementing extension programmes where the provision of education and promotion of health and wellbeing are taking into account as a way to favor local social problems, bringing a contribution to the community (Fernández-Bereau, Sotolongo-Acosta & Batista-Mainegra, 2019). University extension it is also a way to transform and cooperate in the social an economical development of the society (Castro-Solis, Almuiñas-Rivero& Borroto-Leal, 2018; Cedeño-Ferrín & Machado-Ramírez, 2012). Some university extension programmes have a commitment to face social inequalities making their campuses and services open to everybody. In this line, students are also involved in the contribution to the society while participate in volunteer and mentoring programmes.


Virtual Transition

As learning styles are changing, there is an opportunity to move the campus life experience to the currently digital way of learning. Tynes, Rose & Markoe (2013), identified that negative experiences of campus life related to hierarchies and racial discrimination were present in social networks, which proves that negative experiences of campus life are moving to the online world, warranting more attention to virtual transition of education. Different studies had shown that cyber-aggression is becoming common at HE, representing a risk factor to students’ wellbeing and mental health (Watts, Wagner, Velasquez & Behrens, 2017; Minor, Smith & Brashen, 2013; Washington, 2015; Turan, Polat, Karapirli, Uysal & Turan, 2011; Brailovskaia, Teismann & Margraf, 2018).

HEIs should improve their student online services, not only because it is important to contribute and make it easy the e-learning process, but also because ICTs negative experiences could affect student’s mental health and wellbeing. Online campus life is becoming a part of the university experience, which demands more attention. Virtual campus involves the online platform of a university where all the HE students and staff can access to different university services and relevant information (Ortiz, 2007). As online campus is the main important resource of university information, is necessary to present all the services and facilities in a clear way, so all students can access and been benefit of them.  Even psychological services could be moving to online platforms, as HE students reported that a virtual mental health clinic could be useful for students’ mental health care (Farrer, Gulliver, Chan, Bennett & Griffiths, 2015). Chow and Croxton (2017), evaluated the e-learning infrastructure of a university, finding that technology support was a priority and that university resources were not good aligned with faculty, staff and students needs. This reinforce the idea that some campuses are not prepare to attend the transition to online education, and that is why it is important to ensure it, specially in current times where Covid-19 pandemic has revolutionary the way education and student services are provided. It is a statement those virtual campuses will continue growing and indeed student services that used to be provided in physical campuses will continue moving to online platforms. Therefore, it is important to train people who are in charge on those online services, as well as bring key information to students on how to access to that services. 


Some Good Practices

UI Green Metric. It is an international ranking related to polices of greening and sustainability in universities’ campuses around the world. This ranking is constructed with an online survey, which measures six factors: setting and infrastructure, energy and climate change, waste, water, transportation and education. With this ranking, different sustainable and greening practices are shared, in order to advance to the development of sustainable campuses that retraced global warming effects. Tiyarattanachai and Hollmann (2016), compared the perception of stakeholders in green and non-green campuses, proving that stakeholders at green campus were more satisfied and have a better perception of life’s quality. In this line, universities should adopt UI green metric, to enhance sustainability and life’s quality.  More information: https://greenmetric.ui.ac.id/about/welcome

Green Office Movement. In Netherlands in 2010 at Maastricht University, was created the first green office. This model works with an official office that provides information, connections and support students and staff ideas in arising sustainable practices to improve campus sustainability. It is innovative as it gives students the opportunity to be involved directly in sustainable initiatives. Currently there are more than 60 green offices across European universities. This model had received international recognitions including the International Student Campus Network Award and the UNESCO-Japan prize on Education for Sustainable Development.  

More information: https://www.greenofficemovement.org/

Campus Pride Index. In United States, this is the most important element to measure how LGBTQ inclusive a HEI is. This tool is unique as it provides data to campuses on how to measure LGBTQ inclusion assessing 8 factors: policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing, campus safety, counselling and health, recruitment and retention efforts (Garvey, Rankin, Beemyn & Windmeyer, 2017).   

More information: https://www.campusprideindex.org/menu/aboutus

Equality Plans at Spanish Universities. Since 2007 as a national gender equality law was stablished, HEI have been developing equality plans aimed to institutionalise equality in universities (Pastor-Gosálbez, Acosta-Sarmiento, Torres-Coronas & Calvo-Merino, 2020). According to the Organic Law 3/2007, of 22 March, for the effective equality of women and men: Equality plans are a set of measures, adopted after a social diagnosis, aimed to face discrimination based on sex and create an affordable environment for women and men in egalitarian conditions in HE. The equality plans represent an achievement in facing gender inequality at a HE level, as they are a direct way to implement gender equality policies in Spanish Universities (Pastor-Gosálbez & Acosta-Sarmiento, 2016). 

More information: https://www.uv.es/ruigeu/es/red-unidades-igualdad-genero-excelencia-universitaria-ruigeu.html

MobiAbility. This is an Erasmus+ Project aiming to provide guidelines and standard reasonable adjustments at HE level for disabled students. It also provides an online resource for international disabled students that wants to move abroad. 

More information: https://www.um.es/mobiability/

Reflection room. The Pompeu Fabra University, has created a reflection room, aimed to provide to students a space within campus for silence and reflection, facilitating meditation, introspection, pause and artistic enrichment in students’ daily life at university. More information: 


Encounter spaces: Birmingham City University has a variety of spaces designed to provide students with comfortable places that enhance social learning. As group work is part of a university education, providing meeting places where students can share time, work together and study benefits their learning process and their well-being. 

More information: https://www.bcu.ac.uk/student-info/why-study-at-bcu/facilities

Good practices and appropiate behaviours on the virtual campus. The University of Melbourne, dispose of a variety of online resources to support students and promote an inclusive and effective learning environment. They had developed a guide of appropriate behavior on online campus. In addition, the Australian Government partnered with Australian Universities, had developed an initiative to combat online abuse and its impact on students and staff through an open and free toolkit.

 More information:           





  1. Evaluate sustainability in the institutions and generate plans on how to improve it following the Sustainable Development Goals.
  2. Make an assessment of campus climate including the participation of all people involved, collecting quantitative and qualitative data.
  3. Make a report about campus climate assessment where ways of improve it are provided, therefore an action plan should be implemented. 
  4. Observe how students and teachers make use of learning and teaching spaces, mixing quantitative data and experiential data, in order to assess and improve the use of different spaces within campuses. 
  5. Design and redesign the teaching and learning spaces according to students’ and staff needs, having in mind the inclusion of socialization and encounters spaces.
  6. Evaluate how effective and efficacy your virtual campus is, taking in to account how affordable it is for everyone, students’ and staff satisfaction, as well as dissemination of news and services. After that, identify factors that should be maintained or improved, implementing an action plan. 
  7. Evaluate and apply the Universal Design principles to facilitate accessibility to disabled students. 
  8. Evaluate the inclusion and accessibility of the online campus, taking into account the content as well as visual perceptive factors as letter size, color, etc.
  9. Design extension programmes to promote wellbeing and face social exclusion involving students’ participation. 
  10. Make a virtual campus transition plan, training students and staff in the use of it as socialization, learning and teaching space, including tutorials on how to use the online campus and online services, as well as good behavior practices within online campus.



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