Designing a Women’s Refuge: An Interdisciplinary Health, Architecture and Landscape Collaboration

Suzanne Dean, Claire Williams, Samantha Donnelly, Tracy Levett-Jones


University programs are currently faced with a number of challenges: how to engage students as active learners, how to ensure graduates are ‘work ready’ with broad and relevant professional skills, and how to support students to see their potential as agents of social change and contributors to social good. This paper presents the findings from a study that explored the impact of an authentic, interdisciplinary project with health, architecture and landscape students. This project facilitated students’ entrée into the lived experience of women and children requiring refuge services as a result of homelessness and/or domestic violence. Students collaborated with stakeholders from the refuge sector, visiting sites, undertaking individual research, exchanging ideas and problem-solving, to develop a design guide for a women’s refuge.  Focus groups were conducted at the conclusion of the activity to gauge students’ perceptions of the value of the activity. Results indicated that the ‘hands-on’ and collaborative nature of the learning experience in a real-world context was valued, primarily due to its direct relevance to professional practice. Architecture and landscape participants reported an increase in their understanding and knowledge of refuge clients, and many expressed a commitment to further learning and contribution to the sector. Nursing students felt that the authentic learning experience helped prepare them for the ‘real world’ of practice and that it aided development of their professional identities and capacity to effect real-world change. The learning activity had a positive impact on knowledge acquisition and students’ confidence to act as agents of social change.

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 International Journal of Higher Education

International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

Copyright © Sciedu Press

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.