Influence of a temporary space in social cohesion within a university

This research project forms part of a series of subprojects associated with The Living Pavilion, a temporary festival that aims to illuminate Indigenous and ecological knowledge of past and present, foster collaboration across disciplines, and share and celebrate the uniqueness and potential of ‘place’.

Research team

Dr Rimi Khan, Eugenia Zoubtchenko

Project objective

To investigate how the University of Melbourne’s New Student Precinct co-design process functions as a site of citizenship and cultural exchange.

Key research questions

  • What does cultural participation and belonging look like for a diverse cohort of culturally diverse, transient and digitally connected young people?
  • How do the student precinct’s activations and co-creation approaches facilitate student ownership of campus spaces? Can the physical spaces of a university campus encourage new forms of cultural participation?
  • How do students participate in the wider cultural life of the city and what is the University’s role within this urban landscape?

Forecourt, New Student Precinct, Schematic Design Report – August 2018. Image by Lyons Architecture.


The University of Melbourne is redeveloping a large part of its Parkville campus as a ‘New Student Precinct’ that will co-locate the majority of students’ non-academic services, activities and spaces. The University has committed to a co-design process to shape project’s design, whereby students actively participate in decision making. These approaches will potentially contribute to a cultural shift at the University, whereby students are encouraged to take a more active role in cultural production and lead innovative uses of campus public space.

This approach parallels movements in both education and urban design that seek to redefine the role of students from consumers to producers of knowledge, inverting the traditional hierarchy based on ‘expertise’ and creating spaces and services better tailored to users’ needs.

Why is this research important?

This research aims to show how culture is currently produced on campus and by whom. This will allow us to interrogate the assumptions about participation that frame the co-design process. Ultimately, we aim to better understand how a cohort of young people form communities and gain the agency to participate in making culture in our increasingly transnational, transient and digitally-interconnected cities.