The Bartlett Real Estate Institute


Dr Jos Boys

Senior Lecturer in Environments for Learning

Research summary

Jos’s research interests include learning spaces in post-compulsory education; contemporary global shifts in the location of learning; learning beyond the academy; inclusive pedagogies; augmented, digital and hybrid learning technologies; maker culture; community engagement; co-design; community-based design practices; participatory design methods; citizen-scholarship; understanding everyday social, spatial and material learning practices; intersections between and across different disciplinary theories and practices; cross-disciplinary collaboration and engagement; and inclusive educational design and practices. 

Jos has also undertaken considerable research and consultancy in this field, including at the University of Brighton UK, University of Northumbria UK, University of Calgary Canada, RMIT Vietnam, and the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney Australia. Recent keynotes include public lectures at the National Museum for Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo Norway; the Universities of Michigan and Yale, USA; Speyer University in Germany, ETH Zurich and the V&A London. She is a Visiting Professor in Learning Spaces at the University of Ulster and in Diversity and Creativity at the Cass, London Metropolitan University. 

Publications include Building Better Universities; Strategies, Spaces, Technologies (Routledge 2014) and “Towards Creative Learning Spaces: re-thinking the architecture of post-compulsory education” (Routledge 2010). She co-edited - with Anne Boddington - Reshaping Learning: a Critical Reader. The Future of Learning Spaces in Post-Compulsory Education (Ashgate 2011), exploring the cross-disciplinary complexities of conceptualising, planning, using and managing spaces for learning. Jos also writes about the interrelationships between disability and architecture. Publications here include “Doing Disability Differently: an alternative handbook on architecture, dis/ability and designing for everyday life” (Routledge 2014) and “Disability, Space, Architecture: A Reader” (Editor, Routledge 2017). This collects in one volume the best writing on built space from disability studies, together with innovative ideas about inclusive design, so as to create an important new resource for built environment students, educators and design professionals.

Teaching summary

Jos has had considerable experience of teaching in the UK and abroad, across many levels and courses in architecture and associated disciplines, in the design studio, in contextual subjects and in research methods. Her teaching areas have included learning environments design; the changing shape of post-compulsory education; histories and theories of architecture and design; alternative forms of critical analysis; intersections between built design and materialist, feminist disability and post-colonial studies; understanding architectural and design practices and methods; design as social and community-based practice; inclusive architecture and design; disability arts and architecture; feminist architecture; academic research, writing and presentation skills; digital literacy; co-creation; experiential and embodied learning; and inclusive pedagogies.

Jos is also an expert in instructional design and academic development. For many years she has developed and validated digital and hybrid courses, including MOOCs for the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia. 


2001–2003 | MA Photography, De Montfort University, Leicester (distinction) (PT)

1986–2001 | PhD, Faculty of Urban and Regional Studies, University of Reading (“Concrete Visions? Examining inter-relationships between housing design, material practices and everyday life in England 1830 – 1980”) (PT)

1990 | Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Polytechnic of North London (PT)

1979–1981 | MSc in Advanced Architectural Studies, Bartlett School of Architecture and Planning, University College London (PT)

1974–1977 | BSc in Architecture, Planning and Environmental Studies (2.1), Bartlett School, University College London (FT)


Jos trained originally in architecture, and has worked in community-based design practices for many years, as well as a researcher, educator, journalist and photographer. She studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture, and has a PhD from the University of Reading. She has extensive teaching and course management experience, including at the Architectural Association London, London Metropolitan University, Northumbria University, University of Brighton, De Montfort University, the British Higher School of Art and Design Moscow, and University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney Australia. Jos also has an international reputation as a learning spaces consultant and scholar, and has published extensively in this field. In 2014 she was awarded the Society of College and University Planners (SCUP) Perry Chapman Prize for Research into Learning Spaces. From 2016 to 2018, she was a member of the International Advisory Board on Learning Spaces, Taylor Institute at the University of Calgary, Canada. Jos is also a Built Environment Educator (BEE) for Design Council/CABE and a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts. 

Most recently she has been involved in a number of disability-related projects to explore alternative critical and creative ways of designing for inclusion. She is now developing this work in relationship to educational design and its environments.


2017 (with Ann Light) “Reflective Citizens: Learning At/With/From The Edges” in Carl DiSalvo, C., DiSalvo, B., Yip, J., and Bonsignore, E. (Eds) Participatory Design for Learning: Perspectives from Practice and Research Routledge

2017 (Ed.) Disability, Space, Architecture: A Reader Routledge

2015 “Finding the spaces in-between; learning as a social and material practice” in Carvalho, L., Goodyear P., and De Laat, M. (eds) Place-Based Spaces for Networked Learning Routledge

2014 Building Better Universities: Strategies, Spaces, Technologies Routledge

2014 Doing Disability Differently: an alternative handbook on architecture, dis/ability, and designing for everyday life Routledge

2014 “The spaces of relational learning and their impact on student engagement” (with Diane Hazlett) in Nygaard, C., Branch, J., Barthlomew, P., and Scott-Webber, L. (eds.) Learning Space Design in Higher Education Libri Publishing

2013 (co-edited with Anne Boddington and Catherine Speight) Museums and Higher Education working together: Challenges and Opportunities Ashgate 

2013 Developing Research Methods for Analyzing Learning Spaces That Can Inform Institutional Missions of Learning and Engagement funded by Society of College and University Planners (SCUP) Perry Chapman Prize for Research into Learning Spaces.

2011 Towards Creative Learning Spaces: Re-thinking the architecture of post-compulsory education Routledge 

2011 (co-edited with Anne Boddington) Reshaping Learning: a critical reader. The future of learning spaces in post-compulsory education Sense Publishers 

2009 “Creative Differences: deconstructing the conceptual learning spaces of Higher Education and Museums” in Cook et al (eds) Museums and Design Education: Looking to Learn, Learning to See Ashgate

2008 (co-edited with Peter Ford) The e-Revolution and Post-Compulsory Education; Using e-business models to deliver quality education Abingdon: Routledge and JISC Online.

September 2009 “Beyond the beanbag? Towards new ways of thinking about learning spaces” in Networks 8 (HEA-ADM publication)

Research activities

Jos’s research centres on better understanding the intersections between learning spaces (physical, virtual, social, conceptual) and pedagogic practices, particularly at post-compulsory level, across universities, colleges and other cultural and social institutions. Her work aims to link theory and practice, so as to enable the sector to develop more evidence-based and integrated strategies, policies and initiatives for improving current learning environments. 

This has required analysis of the complex shifts in learning environment procurement, design, management and use, with its ongoing emphasis - particularly in the western world - on changing from ‘formal’ classrooms to ‘informal’, interactive and collaborative spaces. For example, Towards Creative Learning (Routledge 2010) investigated the multiplicity of agendas and relationships across and between different actors in learning environments initiatives – with sections on architectural, educationalist and estates planning perspectives –so as better inform debates across policy, theory and practice; and between different stakeholders. A key aim was to challenge some of the conventional wisdom about how learning and teaching (and its associated spaces) is – or should be – changing. Most crucially, this work, undertaken as a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching through Design (CELTD) between 2005 - 2010, revealed the lack of effective theoretical and methodological frameworks for implementing or evaluating new learning spaces; little engagement with important implications for university structures and services more generally; and a common failure to connect learning spaces developments effectively to wider societal, economic and environmental contexts. 

Other research has focused more directly on finding methods for unraveling the complex inter-relationships between learning spaces and student experiences, such as engagement, belonging and performance. For example, an award from the US-based Society of College and University Planners (SCUP) enabled an investigation of how first year students begin to ‘find their place’ at university, what kinds of spaces they need to make this transition successfully, and the implications for campus planning, facilities management and student support processes.

The ongoing aim has been to analyse and then communicate such complex inter-relationships effectively and clearly to a range of audiences; so as to encourage debate and support evidence-based and achievable actions towards improvement. Thus, as well as producing books, papers in specialist journals, and reports for institutions, Jos has undertaken many keynote talks internationally, as well as organizing conferences (such as ‘Reshaping Learning’ at the University of Brighton in 2010) and other events. She has also led many academic development seminars globally; and mentored and advised managers, educators and students on learning space design and development across a range of contexts. 

This research has also led to many international consultancy opportunities, working with senior managers to test and then embed processes for enabling strategic change in learning environment design, management and support. At the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, for example, Jos worked with a multi-disciplinary team – campus planners, facilities managers, room-booking and timetabling teams, academic developers, educators and students - to co-design and then evaluate a Piloting Active Learning Spaces (PALS) project.  Here, existing classrooms were adapted in a variety of ways to both offer innovative opportunities for academics to develop active learning with students, and as a means of learning lessons about how to scale-up and ‘cascade’ good pedagogic practices, well-designed spaces and technologies, and appropriate, fully integrated and effective support services. The project was located within a larger PALS developmental framework, that is, was part of other linked activities, which included an additional consultancy role in creating a design typology for external informal learning and social spaces across the UNSW campus. At the Ulster University in Belfast, Jos has been Visiting Professor, advising on the spatial re-organisation of the university (which will see most of its activities consolidated on a single central Belfast campus, planned for 2019) and to support current staff and students towards more active learning, through developing opportunities on existing campuses, in preparation for the move to the new site.

Research themes

Jos is currently developing two main research areas. The first continues to investigate the current ‘shape’ of post-compulsory education globally, so as to build knowledge of how educational institutions are responding to current challenges. Previous research, published as Building Better Universities (Routledge 2015), aimed to bridge the gap between educational theories and ideas about what the university is, or should be ‘for,’ and its existing prac¬tices and organization globally; so as share the latest innovations, whilst critically analysing their implications and contexts.

Updating this work enables the capture of the diverse ways in which the services, location, scale, ownership, and distinctiveness of education and its associated learning environments continue to be affected by big challenges globally.  

The second area of developing research is designing for inclusive education. This brings together Jos’s long involvement in community-based architectural and design theory and practices that can better enable the inclusion of disadvantaged groups (for example, as part of Matrix, a feminist architects design and research practice in the 1980s, as well as more recent projects with disabled artists as co-founder of The DisOrdinary Architecture Project). Whilst there is both long-standing and emerging work around inclusion in education, this remains fragmented, and poorly related to the design and management of built spaces.