The production of well-being spaces
: Doctoral students’ experiences of university campuses

  • Adora Udechukwu

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In the last two decades, the mental well-being of doctoral students has been described as a global crisis with increasing reports of stress, burnout, poor quality of life, difficult relationships with supervisors and high attrition rates. While environmental behaviour researchers have demonstrated that green-blue spaces provide emotional, psychological, and social well-being benefits for university students, little is known about how doctoral students use and occupy these spaces.

This thesis addresses the lack of scholarship on spatial practices in university environments, especially the socio-material qualities that influence doctoral students’ experiences on UK campuses (United Kingdom). Lefebvre’s (1991) triad of conceived, perceived and lived space is used to examine the spatial practices of doctoral students, focusing on how green-blue spaces influence their well-being while they occupy and re make campus spaces.

A case methodology combining interviews, a focus group, archival material, and solo campus walks were used to examine the three realms of space production. Thirty-two doctoral students and three senior managers at a multi-site British university participated in this research.

The thesis demonstrated the analytical flexibility of the spatial triad for investigating the production of university spaces and lived experiences. It introduces four well-being spaces produced by doctoral students as they use, occupy and personalise campus spaces. These include fitness and leisure, restorative, quiet and social spaces, and multiple experiences. The findings revealed how doctoral students synchronised their campus rhythms with academic rhythms and aspects of their personal lives. These rhythms of campus attendance constitute repetitive micro-spatial activities in green-blue spaces that organise the day in the life of a doctoral student. Although the opportunities to use university-regulated spaces were limited, these students demonstrated agency by personalising offices and creating exclusive peer and social spaces. These are described as third spaces, facilitating a sense of belonging to a peer community. A revised spatial triad capturing the multiplicity of spatial experiences presented in this thesis holds value for campus planning theory and practice.
Date of AwardJun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorPaul Gilchrist (Supervisor)

Cite this