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The campus master plan guides the physical development needed to support the mission and strategic plan of an institution of higher education. It directs how various aspects of the physical environment, including academic and support facilities, open spaces, housing, and circulation, come together to meet the needs of the college or university. It reflects the local context, projects the institutional identity, and supports a learning community. Most importantly, the campus master plan establishes the physical setting in which higher education transforms students’ lives, whether they are traditional late adolescents or part-time and mid-career adults.

APPA readers are wise enough to realize that one chapter in the Body of Knowledge series can only serve as a primer on campus master planning. Most institutions of higher education retain consultants to assist them in campus master planning because the process is intensive and does not occur frequently enough to require the full range of required expertise on staff. Thus, this chapter is intended to introduce the context, process, and content for campus master planning to assist APPA members in directing a master planning effort, including consultant selection, and to implement and adjust an adopted campus master plan until the time comes to prepare a major update. A successful or effective campus master plan informs campus decision-making and is implemented over time; it is the job of the facilities staff on campus to make this happen.

  • Background and Context. The chapter opens with a general perspective about campus master planning for campus facility administrators. It discusses the importance of the campus master plan as a component of the college or university’s integrated strategic planning. In addition, this section highlights when and how campus facility administrators should go about preparing a campus master plan. It also summarizes how the community context and recent trends in higher education affect campus master plans.
  • The Campus Master Plan – Process and Product. The next section focuses on how a master plan is prepared and what it typically contains – work usually performed by campus master plan consultants and coordinated by campus facility administrators. Topics include the scope, contents, and process for preparing campus master plans.
  • Adoption, Implementation, and Monitoring. The final section discusses the responsibility of campus facility administrators to ensure that the campus master plan is followed, including monitoring and implementation strategies.

Higher education institutions take many forms and serve different purposes. Campus size may comprise a few acres or thousands; the location may be urban, suburban, or rural; academic program offerings may focus on a few degrees or a comprehensive array; students may live on campus or commute; and governance may be public, private non-profit, or proprietary. As a result, campus plans differ significantly from one college or university to another. This chapter cites a variety of examples to illustrate a range of circumstances and approaches taken, highlighting plans that have won awards from the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP). Many of them come from larger, better-endowed institutions that have the means to update and publish their plans on the Web, and thus make them accessible to a wide audience. Nonetheless, smaller colleges and universities, and those with more modest means, can still apply the principles laid out here.

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