Tecnologico do Monterrey is a high-ranking university in Monterrey, Mexico. I was based on this campus last week as part of a British Council research project (‘dialogue and transformative learning in STEM education’). In many ways, the campus feels conventional in that it has a library, lecture halls, science labs, cafes and shops. Yet there is something that feels different about it too.
In contrast to the formality of many British universities, Tec de Monterrey has deliberately set out to encourage creativity and innovation. It wants students (and staff) to push themselves into new ways of thinking. One way it has done this is through building the Innov-action Centre (pictured). This building is designed to feel free-flowing and flexible. There is brightly coloured furniture. There is a pool table, a trampoline, a table-tennis table. There are pop-up tents, large cushions and swings. There are spaces where students can work on their own or in small groups. The idea behind the centre is to provide opportunities for inspiration. If they are struggling with an idea, they can move around and do something different, and then return to their work. By having the freedom to move around and be creative, they can think differently (or so the argument goes).
In many ways, the Innov-action Centre reminded me of pictures I have seen of Google’s offices. Whilst I was there, I saw students sitting on the big cushions and working in small groups. I saw some using the pool table as a normal table. I did not see anyone using the trampoline, the swing, or the table-tennis table. It made me wonder whether these facilities are ever used or whether they just give the impression of ‘creativity’.
My university in the UK has recently re-designed its library. The new building looks amazing, and it also contains brightly coloured furniture and small working spaces. Students and staff really like the new space. Yet it still looks much more organised and more formal that the Innov-action Centre.
Are there any universities in the UK which have deliberately designed their space so as to encourage creativity and innovation? And if so, do students actually use these facilities? If you know of any that have done this, it would be great to hear from you.