Maximising Potential: The Importance of Space Utilisation Data for Universities

Maximising Potential: The Importance of Space Utilisation Data for Universities

In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education, universities face the challenge of optimising resources to provide an enriching environment for students, faculty, and staff. One often overlooked aspect of this optimisation is the efficient use of physical space on campus. In this blog post, we will explore why it is crucial for universities to measure and understand their space utilisation, how to collect this data, and most importantly, how to leverage it to inform strategic decision-making.

Why space utilisation data matters for universities

Understanding how, and when, the different spaces and facilities of a campus are used, has far reaching benefits and implications.

For instance, Universities invest substantial funds in constructing and maintaining facilities. By understanding how spaces are used, institutions can identify areas of underutilisation and repurpose or consolidate them, reducing operational costs. Knowing how often spaces are used can also help defer maintenance costs across different areas and reallocate budget to where it is needed most.

Space utilisation data can be used to enhance the student experience by preempting overcrowded classrooms or inadequate study spaces. Take it one step further, and classrooms can be reimagined to better accommodate the shifts and trends in how students learn best.

Sustainability goals become more attainable when bolstered by utilisation metrics. Here is a real-world example: Imagine your university is in an area that experiences very cold winters. Without understanding which areas students use most frequently to study in the evenings, the university may inadvertently be heating dozens of buildings instead of a few strategically located, spaces that align to student needs.

In an era where data drives decision-making, universities cannot afford to ignore the insights provided by space utilisation metrics. This data empowers administrators to make informed decisions about campus development to stay relevant and cutting edge in the battle to attract students and funding.

Interestingly though, there is limited research documenting space utilisation at universities, even though there is a clear need to share and benchmark data across institutions. This trend is likely to change in the coming years with flexible ways of working becoming more broadly integrated into both work and education. In the next section we will highlight straightforward ways you can start collecting this valuable data, so that you can be ahead of the curve.

How to get started

The steps to collecting space utilisation data for your institution can start simply, and grow into a more robust interconnected network of information. The most import step, though, is to start!

Step 1. Technology, technology, technology

The antiquated methods of assessing occupancy by manual class attendance records and other labor-intensive means are no longer suitable for universities that want to have an edge among their competitors.

Implementing sensor technologies, RFID systems, or Wi-Fi tracking can provide real-time data on how spaces are being used. These technologies can track foot traffic, occupancy rates, and popular areas on campus.

These types of technology can also highlight the difference between scheduled occupancy and actual occupancy. In other words, students that are scheduled to be in a specific space and how many were actually in attendance. Factoring in no-shows as well as impromptu meetings/attendance further builds the picture of how different spaces are being used over time.

Step 2. Surveys and Feedback

Gathering input from students and faculty through surveys and feedback sessions can provide qualitative insights into space preferences and usage patterns. Combining this information with quantitative data enhances the overall understanding of space utilisation.

For instance, consider the dynamic for students post-Pandemic. Head of Campus Operations for a leading US University, recently shared with us:

“It’s harder to get students out of their shell and interacting in the classroom after Covid. Large lecture halls shouldn’t be the norm. Spaces need to be more flexible, and mailable, to shift to small group settings, and adapt to the needs of how students learn best.”

Step 3. Integrated Campus Management Systems

Big picture, the holy grail of understanding how campus space is being used is to marry utilisation data to other sources of data on an integrated platform. This could include everything from HR and Student records, administration and enrollment, to class scheduling data and curriculum management. Integrated campus management systems that include space management modules can streamline data collection and create a more wholistic picture of how your campus operates.

Using the data for maximum impact

Using this data, universities are empowered to impact change and further their strategic goals. Here are a few ways we see our customers apply the data in the real world:

  1. Optimising class schedules: Analysing data on classroom occupancy can help universities optimise class schedules, ensuring that spaces are utilised efficiently throughout the day.
  2. Justifying capital investment based on actual need: Data on space usage patterns can inform decisions regarding the need for new facilities or the expansion of existing ones. By having verifiable data to prove the need for space, management can ensure the investment aligns with actual demand. 
  3. Driving sustainability goals: Understanding space usage empowers universities to make strategic shifts in how they operate to reduce their carbon footprint. From the cold-weather university mentioned above to managing campus transportation, utilisation data can have a direct impact on reaching sustainability goals.
  4. Enhancing the student experience: while avoiding overcrowded study spaces during exam weeks may be the most pressing challenge for some institutions, leveraging utilisation data can also lead to long term shifts in strategy that boost the student experience. Spaces that can be shifted and adapted to meet the needs of different types of lessons and learning styles are a great example of how this data can drive long term value for students and universities alike.


In conclusion, effective space utilisation is not merely a logistical concern; it is a strategic imperative for universities. By investing in the collection and analysis of space utilisation data, institutions can enhance financial efficiency, improve the student experience, contribute to sustainability goals, and make informed decisions that align with their long-term vision. As universities continue to evolve, understanding and optimising physical space will remain a cornerstone of success in higher education.