The relocation of Linnanmaa campus caused a lot of buzz last autumn. In November the university started an inquiry into a real estate strategy project. The options are the following: renovating the old buildings, a completely new property built in Linnanmaa or the relocation of the campus to the city center.
The reasons behind the inquiry are the aging campus and the high rent of the property that would rise even higher if the current campus was renovated.
The question is: would the university campus really move to city center? Yes, it would, says the head of the real estate strategy project, rector Jouko Niinimäki.
“There is more to it than the high rent,” Niinimäki starts.
According to the rector, the rent of the property is negotiable. However, there are other problems with the old campus.
“The life cycle of the property is coming to its end. The current campus has functioned well for almost 50 years but the aging means that renovations are needed. It’s either renovation, building a new campus or relocation.”
Why then is relocating the best choice?
Niinimäki says that the decision concerns the future of the university and the future generations of students. The amount of students is dropping as age groups approaching university education are smaller. That means that there will be more competition between universities.
“The University of Oulu has to be even more attractive so we can get students from other growth centers as well. The new campus and new location would help the university become a nationwide topic in media”, says Niinimäki.
The relocation to the city center is more a question of reputation rather than property to the rector: it is a way to make the university more appealing. In his speech he repeats the words student experience.
“Nowadays more and more students want to live in the city center. If the university, their hobbies and living would be in the same area, the students would experience the university as more pleasant as well.
According to Niinimäki, it’s important to have easy access to the campus. The new location is planned to be near the railway station which would make it easier to commute to the campus when arriving from another city.
“Aalto university and all the other big universities are easy to travel to. A central location would attract more students from the north, south and east alike”, says Niinimäki.
Concerned with carbon
When making plans for the new campus, the environment and carbon emissions will also be considered.
“The Linnanmaa campus is old and the shape of it is flat. We have big glass walls, and the building is far from being energy efficient”, says Niinimäki.
By moving the university to the city center, the need for traveling by car would decrease. That would in turn decrease the carbon emissions of the university.
“The current public transport won’t be able to keep up with combined University of Applied Sciences UAS and University campus. I already get feedback from students about how the buses are too full. We can’t rely on people driving their own cars to campus if we seek carbon neutrality.”
Niinimäki sees transport as a crucial problem regarding student experience. He has read that in Helsinki only one third of the young people get a driver’s license. Niinimäki believes the future generations of students want to continue using public transport to commute to their studies.
A project for the ages
The inquiry into the campus properties is meant to be ready this spring. Niinimäki says that he intends to present the subject to the board of the university in April. The board will decide whether to renovate, rebuild or relocate.
If the board will support the relocation, there is still years before the move would eventually happen. The moving would happen one faculty at a time in the time frame of 2026–2040.
“Most of the current students would not see the new campus as students anymore by the time the relocation happens”, says Niinimäki.
Even though the new plans might feel daunting, Niinimäki is excited. He hopes that the students feel the same positivity.
“Whatever the decision will be, we are always thinking of the well-being of our students. This decision is being made for the benefit of students and their experience.”
The future campus
Even though plans regarding the new campus are still only in the hypothetical phases, ideas regarding the design have been thrown around. Being located near the railway station seems to be fairly set.
Niinimäki thinks having the university in the center of the city would also help bring new life into Oulu.
“Even though the vitality of the city isn’t really a part of university’s tasks, by relocating we could help bring some energy into the city center and make Oulu more appealing as a city.”
Niinimäki mentions the Myllypuro campus of Metropolia as an inspiration for the new property. The brand new Myllypuro campus was designed by Oulu-based architect Rainer Mahlamäki.
So far no official plans for the design of the new university have not been made. However, architect students in Oulu are designing a hypothetical new campus as a part of a course lead by Mahlamäki.
Niinimäki states that the coursework is purely playful, but who knows.
“The new campus would be an investment for the future. I would ask the students not to worry!” Niinimäki concludes