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The Class of 2020 signals global ambitions in Milan

The annual student housing conference held by The Class of 2020 was set in Milan this year, after an ambitious project with the city’s authorities was unveiled and plans for a global expansion of the European think tank were also revealed by its director Jorick Beijer.

An ambitious project to increase international student numbers, who could bring €300m and 4,500 jobs to the city, was unveiled at Class of 2020 Milan. Photo: The PIE News

The Class of 2020 conference will be held in Berlin in 2019

Milan’s deputy mayor in charge of urban planning was the most high-profile guest at the two-day event in Milan’s heavily re-developed Porta Nova neighbourhood, and Pierfrancesco Maran was eager to impress the changing nature of the northern Italian powerhouse on delegates.

“To change, you don’t need 100% – we have a sufficient push”

The city’s university sector is growing, he said, with international students poised to bring €300m and 4,500 jobs to the city if the right steps are taken. Much like the renovations to the Porta Nova area, a big part of this goal is public-private partnerships between the city authorities and both HEIs and third party companies.

Similarly, the potential of the city can be seen in the recently signed partnership between Politecnico di Milano and leading Chinese institution Tsinghua University.

With the international HE seen by Maran and other city officials as a potential area for growth, Milan commissioned a report with The Class to review how the city can prepare for and encourage an influx of mobile students.

At the centre of the recommendations produced was three new “urban campus” sites, identified by The Class and its local partners as areas ripe for redevelopment, with existing links to Milanese institutions.

The sites in Porta Romana, Scalo Farini and Città Studi are all disused and abandoned rail yards, with connections to existing institutions and with features the parties involved think will attract foreign institutions contemplating TNE or IBC options.

The Città Studi site, for example, is presented as a potential European version of MIT, a “Milano Institute of Technology”, with an open call to action for HEIs such as Bartlett and Parsons School of Design.

Although student housing was a clear focus of The Class, its report also suggested an increase in English medium of instruction courses. Despite tensions in nations such as The Netherlands on the issue of HE delivery in non-native language, Maran suggested this would be a workable strategy for Milan.

“We have been able to highlight the levels of poor mental health among students “

“In every country there are two strands that push together [on this issue]. Even at Politecnico there was a part of the teaching staff who were against it… but to change, you don’t need 100% – we have a sufficient push,” he told The PIE News.

Along with the announcement of the Milano Urban Campus report, The Class made announcements on its future and handed out its annual awards to the “Best in Class” student housing providers for 2018.

From next year, The Class will run events across the world, not just Europe. The new events will take place in Singapore, New York and Sydney, to name a selection. This signals a step-change in the scope of the think tank, which has so far aimed to create solutions around purpose-built student accommodation shortages in Europe.

At a gala dinner for partners and sponsors before the conference-proper, Beijer handed out awards for innovations in sustainability,  best new development, and best operator.

However, perhaps the most telling gong was handed to Campus Living Villages for the accommodation provider’s ‘Picturing Mental Health’ scheme, judged to be the Outstanding Mental Wellbeing Initiative.

It follows the firm’s work on assessing the issues international students experience with mental ill-health, and involved students from the universities of Bedford and Salford sharing their experiences through images, which were in turn shared around CLV properties and displayed to more than 12,000 students on World Mental Health Day 2018.

“Winning this award is great recognition of all the hard work everyone from Campus Living Villages has put in over the last few years,” said Rebecca O’Hare, head of residence life, at Campus Living Villages.

“Through providing training to our staff and hosting round tables, we have been able to highlight the levels of poor mental health among students and work with other organisations to come up with more ideas to help students access the support they need.”

The Class of 2020 conference will be held in Berlin in 2019, and will focus on ‘Blended Living’.

 

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