The Class Conference 2020


November 19, 2020



Fast-Forwarding Our Future

The year 2020 proved what we could have only imagined could happen overnight. Like many, we feel that the transformations we see happening right now were bound to happen eventually but that the pandemic has prompted acceleration. In a fast-forwarded future, many of us have barely had time to adjust, let alone look ahead. On 19th of November, 2020, we hosted The Class Graduation Conference: Fast-forwarding Our Future with some of the most provocative thinkers and practitioners to challenge over 900 delegates from higher education, real estate, technology, investment, co-working, coliving, and of course, student living for exactly that reason: to look ahead to make a better future happen faster for our global talents.


The past decade has brought extraordinary growth and change to university cities. Universities have stepped up investment in internationalization and the student learning experience. Visionary investors, developers, and operators have introduced flexible and community-oriented living concepts for global talent to markets across Europe. Billions of equity and institutional funds have been deployed on campus, housing projects, and regenerated districts. Global talent mobility has accelerated vibrant city development and economic success in return. But how resilient are we? What will tomorrow and the day after look like? How can we recover from the current crisis and prevent the loss of progress we have achieved and reshape the future for the better? At The Class, we believe that crises can be a powerful engine to fix things. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, we were confronting a housing crisis, often worse than that of 10 years ago. Higher education and student mobility are neither accessible to all nor necessarily providing the right competencies to the labor market in a changing world. The rise of blended living and learning is here to stay, and students make it clear that they still value experience and community. At The Class Graduation Conference, we convened some of the most provocative thinkers and practitioners who challenge our community to make a better future happen faster. We asked them to envision the new knowledge ecosystem in an era of paradigm shifts. And with you, we explored what our community can and should do to provide opportunities for global talent and save our beloved university cities.

Graduation from education to learning without boundaries

  • Bedroom Campus: Anywhere learning will push the industry to collaborate.
  • Education Europass: Securing diversity and accessibility will surpass mobility.
  • On-Demand Learning: Rising new skill sets needed will require students to be empowered to design individual learning pathways. Anytime learning will challenge the current education system.
  • Touchless Interaction: The need for high-tech, high touch for personal development and well-being will intensify.

Graduation from spaces to solutions

  • Community Technology: Technology will redefine basic assumptions about location, visibility, zoning, capital, and information in real estate. Digital innovation will allow brands to understand and design consumer-focused solutions to living needs.
  • Sustainability Fast-Forward: Critical young consumers and increasingly strict sustainable investment criteria will mean that successful real estate players will be pushed to create low carbon and socially sustainable urban living solutions.
  • Purpose-Driven Brands: The ability to articulate values and purpose will be a key differentiator for real estate operators and asset managers to co-create portfolios with institutional investors and increased public and private partnerships.
  • Good Life Communities: Hybridisation that provides well-being solutions in the urban context will continue as both customers and institutional investors see the long term value blended experiences deliver in terms of society and investment returns.
  • Ultra-Flexibility: Customer-focused flexibility and community will remain as the key value proposition to respond to a fast-changing environment.

Graduation from university cities to talent hubs

  • Good Governance: Governance will become a key differentiator for cities’ ability to capture economic and investment opportunities.
  • Quality of Life: The real estate community looks for civic value and contribution to wider goals. As pressure to move to a low carbon economy intensifies, how cities fast-track change will be a major consideration.
  • Impact Investment: Investment in big urban projects that communicate value and vision will help cities attract and retain talent.
  • Social Mobility: Investment in ecosystems that foster skills and networks for young talent will help cities recover and become resilient talent hubs.
  • City & Nature: The countryside is making a comeback. Remote working and studying will generate new demand and opportunities for cities to interact with nature. Residences and rural campuses will become destinations for nurturing.

Fast-forward the agenda for living, learning, and working

  • Diversify Diversity: future generations need a diversity of choice, industry needs a diversity of experience and perspectives.
  • Don’t Underestimate Social impact: serving a larger impact matters. It matters more than companies understand. People want to know that they are part of a bigger solution.
  • Embrace Complexity: our role is not to simplify complexity but to translate complexity into well-informed choices our future generation can make.
  • Focus on Equality: Democratization of technology, flexibility, and accessibility should address fairness and equality to education and growth opportunities.
  • Re-think Blended Living: every component of our daily lives is increasingly happening in and around where we live. Life itself will become a school of continuous learning with human interactions at different scales, enabled by blends. That requires a new approach to space and place.
  • Empower our people: If we want to serve the future generation, we need to empower our people, the future of our industry. We need to keep pace with the fast-forwarded future with new skill sets and competencies.
  • Collaborate & Learn: the only way to demonstrate our shared responsibility is via collaboration and learning. Playing solo is not an option in the era of paradigm shifts.


Steve Thompson

Senior Director, Learning and Development, Europe


Xavier Jongen

Managing Director, European Residential


Tim Moonen


Stefan Kolibar

Head of Marketing


Stuart Osborn

Head of European Residential Investment Transactions

Knight Frank

Yoony Kim

Managing Director



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