A quick trip to York University campus for some fresh air and wildlife spots made a change the other day and led me to wonder what will become of students’ university experience in the future and other changes we might see in our towns and cities.
Obviously, the campus was quiet because it is August although the grounds people are making the most of this to do a bit of work: I thought our way was going to be blocked but as we got closer, discovered that some trenches that had been dug had been filled in but not yet tarmac-ed so were passable, just a little bit bumpy. The stream looked a bit neglected and overgrown but the ducks and coots didn’t seem to mind and there were absolutely loads of geese. Perhaps being undisturbed all this time has meant they have bred more?
Campus felt like a bit of a wildlife haven as we also saw a dragonfly and a couple of squirrels as well as a variety of ducks – you can identify them on various information boards. Some of the trees were starting to look distinctly autumnal, mainly the horse chestnuts which were laden with conkers.
I found myself wondering if the campus will ever again be as busy as it used to be. I gather that universities are expecting a lot fewer international students but that courses are filled with homes students. Perhaps some people are thinking they may as well become a student as there are fewer jobs around.
I wonder though if some students will elect to go to their local universities so that they can continue to live at home as student accommodation may be less inviting in the current climate. I’m sure the student experience will be different for at least a year or two and I can imagine a situation where large lectures are given online only and face-to-face contact is limited. It’s a shame as a large part of being a student is going away from home, becoming independent, meeting loads of new people, doing things as a group and so on, all of which will become more difficult when social distancing is involved.
Of course, it’s not just being a student that will change. Do you think in the future that more people will work from home and therefore there will be more demand for houses with enough space for a workstation, more houses with some outside space? I have often wondered what the best solution is to the fact that more people get things delivered to their homes with the increase in online shopping, but there’s nobody in to receive parcels. That issue might be solved with more home-working just as people do even more on-line shopping.
Perhaps a long time in to the future, we will have cities that have a smaller shopping area in the centre, larger out-of-town shopping areas with easy parking and access and lots more people living in suburbs where the houses have gardens. Perhaps there will be more shops and services in the suburbs so people don’t need to drive so much. But where does that leave city centres? There has been much debate about this; I even contributed a tiny bit to it myself with a letter in the Guardian suggesting that all city centres ought to have a lifelong-learning centre which would bring people in who might go for a drink or meal and buy, for example, art or craft supplies or cooking ingredients depending on the class they are going to. People might also come into a city centre for the library, cinema, theatre, live music, skating or bowling and other things that you can’t do online such as trying on clothes. Perhaps some of these office blocks which aren’t needed any more could become city centre accommodation or some kind of community space. If communal activities are to continue, they will need more space if physical distancing is still an issue.
I don’t suppose there will be any sudden changes but wouldn’t it be wonderful if gradually we became less dependent on cars and townscapes became more accessible to all?
It can be depressing thinking about a future continually affected by Covid restrictions but it is nevertheless interesting to speculate about how things might be done differently.