Milan could double its international student population

Universities are change-makers for cities. With their students, education and research, universities are the perfect petri dish for innovation, having the power to reconstruct the social-economic fabric of cities, while at the same time being a catalyst for urban renewal. This is a timely notion for the city of Milan, which is preparing to transform seven FS Sistemi Urbani railyards in the vicinity of the city centre.

A European Benchmark
With just 10 percent off all its students being internationals, Milan lags behind many competing European university cities in this respect. It is not difficult to identify three challenges Milan faces.
Firstly, the share of English-Taught Programmes is far behind that of other European countries, making Italy a less desirable destination for international students. Secondly, the rankings of Milan’s two key public universities, Statale and Politecnico, are outside of the top 150 cities. Thirdly, Milan suffers from a serious shortage in the provision of professional student housing. With just 4 percent of the students in Milan living in purpose-built student accommodation, Milan still lags far behind its
competitors.

Milano Urban Campus
The Class of 2020 engaged with Comune di Milano, FS Sistemi Urbani and eight project partners in the ‘Milano Urban Campus’ project. This project investigates how three abandoned railyards could be developed to help reposition Milan as an international talent hub, with a strong strategy for attracting, growing and retaining talent. The urban campus methodology places the university at the centre of urban regeneration and at the heart of urban life. In this project, The Class of 2020 has developed urban strategies and scenarios for Porta Romana, Scalo Farini and the link between Città Studi and Lambrate.

Recommendations
Attracting international talent is a major challenge for Milan. It requires leapfrogging the current lack of supply in housing as well as also drastically improving the quality and accessibility of the accommodation that is currently offered, in order to bring this to international standards. The following recommendations stand out:
1. Reregulate social student housing and make it easier for international operators to develop contemporary student housing (in various pricing segments). Incentivize PBSA schemes that offer public services and accessible housing.
2. Increase the number of English-taught programmes, so that Milan becomes a competitive
destination for mobile talent.
3. Attract an internationally renowned branch campus to Milan or initiate a new scientific institute.
4. Develop consistent branding for Milan as a destination for global talent.

Impact
If executed with rigour and conviction, these new urban campuses will redefine how talent sticks to Milan and allow Milan to double its numbers of international students, from 20,576 to 40,000.
This growth will have strong economic impact, ensuring an extra €300 million in revenue, 4,500 new jobs and 7,200 new talented citizens in the long run.