A “Noisy” University?

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After the launch of the Big Conversation I asked my 10 year old daughter to describe in one word what she thought going to university would be like. She thought for a moment and then said “noisy”. I confess I didn’t ask why – I got distracted by the fact that we had arrived at a point in the year where it was acceptable to have chocolate for breakfast. I have, however, since reflected on what she might have meant.

I think that she means buzzing, big, hectic. When my daughter has visited our campus she has been in awe of the size and space compared to her small primary school. She has been fascinated by students coming and going to classes and the conversations that are buzzing in cafes and around our open spaces. Noisy, in this sense, is a good thing in my view. It implies being present and involved. You don’t get noisy MOOCs as far as I am aware. Whilst the increase in use of technology is inevitable (and offers huge potential that we will need to exploit to meet the needs of our future students) I hope that we haven’t moved to a virtual reality university by 2026.

I hope, instead, that we have an even greater sense of the value and importance of personal interaction. We should be embracing and encouraging noisy classrooms and lecture theatres (and yes, I think that there might still be a place for lecture theatres in 2026). The buzz of learning is difficult to replicate in an on-line environment. Technology has the potential to enhance but not, I believe, to replace. So, I hope that Birmingham remains noisy, in the best sense of the word.

Sarah King
CLAD & Learning Spaces

5 thoughts on “A “Noisy” University?”

  1. I love this concept of ‘a noisy university’. Looking ahead to 2026 then – I wonder if we will use our social spaces to support a more fomalised ‘cafe-culture’ style of learning (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms…)

    1. How about colour too?

      My children (10 & 11) came onto campus after seeing Treasure Island at the REP. They commented on the look and feel of the University. “It’s a bit boring.” I sadly didnt then pick up some brightly coloured paint and create a magnificant backdrop in Aston Webb, using clippings from the leaflets and magazines on display in the reception area to build a great ship; but it did make me think that perhaps colour and tactile materials could be used better around campus to boost our creativity and energy.

      Google or Lego style social spaces to play and experiment here we come!

  2. Noise, buzz and conversation (and lots of coffee) are essential in a University but quiet spaces and spaces out in the open are also important. Ideally the three types of environment should not be far apart so that students and staff can move easily as their mood requires. Space is also needed in the timetables to allow discussion and contemplation.

  3. This video (75 million hits) where the education system is put on trial gives a really good perspective on how younger people might perceive our current modes of educational delivery… https://www.tes.com/us/news/breaking-news/rapper-and-spoken-word-artist-puts-school-system-trial-viral-hit . Its not necessarily about HE but I think it has some very valuable things to say about how we currently perceive modes of learning and would have relevance to the future of UoB delivery too.

  4. It will be noisy and there will be more time and opportunities for students to work together in lectures, tutorials and seminars in 2026 since I’m sure there will be a vast resource of shared online lectures, quizzes and other assessments across the sector (e.g. with our U21 partners) – this will free up our time to do interactive and flipped classrooms and more small group teaching.

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