What impact do our living spaces have on our learning? According to a recent study, a lot.
US researchers found that those who live in student homes with “socialising architecture” have higher first-semester grand point averages. These luxury student homes, which are becoming increasingly popular, are designed to include the latest amenities and increased privacy, take away from the ‘true’ residence hall experience.
Writing in Times Higher Education, Fred Volk and Joshua T Brown said: “While luxury student housing may entice a student to enroll in a given institution over another, the design elements may undermine academic performance and potentially exacerbate class and race differences for student populations as our new study suggests.”
Amenity-rich luxury student homes are mushrooming, featuring gyms, games rooms, cinemas and even housekeeping services. This provides a standard of living that was unheard of for students in previous decades. While upper-middle class students can afford these swanky pads, less affluent ones are forced to live elsewhere. The result is a division of the student population along family wealth.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Thomas Laidley, a doctoral candidate in New York University’s sociology department whose researched urban stratification and inequality, said: “The rise of luxury student homes can have perverse, unintended consequences.”
The new research suggests another downside to high-end student homes. Researchers compared two types of student housing design; the first is a luxury-style apartment with privacy and added amenities. The other was a traditional double-corridor design with shared bathrooms at the ends. The latter is said to encourage more communal and socialising experience among students compared to the former.
“The results of our study showed that all students who lived in the traditional, more socialising residence halls had higher first semester grade point averages. These results appear contrary to consumer demands that emphasise preferences for privacy and luxury, but they complement prior research that examines student academic success and a sense of belonging,” they wrote.
For underrepresented minority students, living with students of similar ethnicity in more socialising spaces also had higher first semester GPAs compared to their peers in more expensive luxury student homes.
Researchers believe luxury student homes “likely limited student interaction through their design elements that emphasised high levels of privacy”. This limited students from interacting with other students “like themselves” (minority with minority) as well as “different from themselves” (white with minority), thus contributing to a “less rich educational experience for all”.