[Talk-GB] too many universities in Cambridge

Richard Mann richard.mann.westoxford at gmail.com
Fri May 22 11:22:22 UTC 2015

A quick scan of Oxford shows the colleges (and a few multi-building areas
such as the Science Area) as amenity=university, with buildings within
colleges and odd departments as building=university. So we have a lot of
universities too.

Other big difference is that we haven't generally added "(University of
Oxford)" to the end of all the college names...

I'd tend to go for amenity=university for a contiguous site with a single
name, with the occasional split site (eg on two sides of a public road) as
a multi-polygon. Then I'd add a *tag* to show that the site was part of a
collection making up the University (probably operator, though that feels
wrong, since the colleges are independent entities). It's *not* a candidate
for a relation because there are no geographical relationships between the


On Fri, May 22, 2015 at 11:54 AM, David Earl <david at frankieandshadow.com>

> Hi Dan,
> Yes, Philip's right - I developed and continue to maintain the University
> map at http://map.cam.ac.uk (as well as doing all of the original street
> pattern mapping for Cambridge back in 2006). The University has put a
> considerable investment and negotiated permission for college access into
> the map and contributed tens of thousands of pounds of survey data into OSM
> - it's not just "some of its maps", it's completely central to the
> University map, not just a casual effort.
> The "schema" for tags that make the University map work is at
> http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Cambridge/University_of_Cambridge
> (I've just realised I haven't updated that page with a recent, unrelated
> new bit, I must do so).
> As it happens, I was also thinking about this the other day. The three
> main things are that is (a) consistent and (b) doesn't change under our
> feet and break the map, (c) it needs a way to distinguish these buildings
> from others. It possibly wasn't the best decision to do it like this,
> though I still don't think it is a terrible way to do it. Relations would
> be awful: they are very hard to maintain accurately, and incidentally they
> are hard to work with in consumers because they come at the end of the data
> so you have to do multiple passes or keep lots of data in memory, and I
> think you'd lose most of the distinctive renderings off the OSM map, though
> since that's such an opaque process it's hard to know.
> building=university would work, but only if done in a controlled way so
> that we don't break the map while it's being done. But do you really want
> to spend your days in front of a computer changing all the university tags
> in Cambridge though?! I can think of more productive and helpful things to
> do. I did consider building=university, but like all things OSM, there was
> a camp that only wanted building=yes, and that is what the Map_features
> page then decreed (it has more now, but university isn't among them). The
> more critical tags from my point of view are the operator ones.
> This raises some other points though...
> 1. What about the sites and the colleges? These are also tagged
> University, and there isn't an obvious alternative that won't mean the
> ordinary OSM maps don't show them. Fundamentally, is a "part of a
> university" a university? I think it's helpful to do it like that. Did you
> know the University of Nottingham has a branch in China - would it really
> be helpful to link these with relations spanning the world? I think there's
> cases both ways.
> 2. What is a University anyway? Almost no university is in one physical
> area. Even campus universities like UEA have outlying premises (in UEA's
> case in London too). Do you really not want the campus area to be tagged
> university just because it isn't the whole thing? You said Anglia Ruskin
> was one of the two universities in Cambridge - no it isn't, it's HALF a
> university, the rest is in Chelmsford. I don't think it would do any harm
> and would be helpful to group them with relations, if that were
> maintainable sustainably, but not at the expense of losing the tags from
> the outline itself. And the building thing only extends this further. Is
> a University a geographical thing at all? It's an institution, which may
> have some buildings but really it's a concept not a physical object -
> ultimately everything on the map is just a part, not the whole.
> 4. Constantly changing tags creates a moving target that is extremely hard
> to maintain for data consumers, and is a major off-putting factor in using
> OSM, especially if you can't manage the process because things just change
> under your feet. For example, there is a thread on talk discussing
> completely changing the amenities altogether, without regard for people who
> want to use this stuff in the real world. My view is that tags are merely
> tokens and too much is read into the words. They are part of the API and
> the fact you can change them because you prefer some other structure
> doesn't mean you should. The flexibility means we can introduce new things
> easily, but constant change is hard to cope with. The costs are borne
> elsewhere, and what really does it buy us?
> So, I think it's OK the way it is. If it offends you unbearably,
> building=university wouldn't be too hard to cope with, but please, please
> don't just do it, let me change the University software first, otherwise
> the map will be broken on next update (which are frequent) and they will be
> very annoyed. As I said, this is effectively part of the API, even though
> it may not feel like it, and constitutes a non-upward compatible change. If
> you do want to do it, please do it all, not in bits, and bear in mind this
> has a direct financial cost to me as a freelancer supporting the University
> map, and that the University has been a big benefactor for OSM, even though
> they get the rest of the map back in return, so you really don't want to
> give them a slap in the face for doing so.
> David
> On Thu, 21 May 2015 at 23:13 Phillip Barnett <phillip.p.barnett at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> I'm a Cambridge mapper, but I'd advise doing nothing until you've spoken
>> with David Earl who was contracted by Cambridge University to actually map
>> the university - see this link
>> http://soc2012.soc.org.uk/node/16.html
>> Thanks
>> > On 21 May 2015, at 22:39, Dan S <danstowell+osm at gmail.com> wrote:
>> >
>> > Hi all,
>> >
>> > I don't relish bringing this up since it's a bit of a tangle, but I
>> > noticed Cambridge has a lot more universities than I thought!
>> > Apparently 1219, judging from the number of amenity=university tagged
>> > objects. In real life I'm aware of two: Cambridge Uni, Anglia Ruskin
>> > Uni.
>> >
>> > I think someone mentioned Cambridge Uni was using OpenStreetMap for
>> > some of its maps,* so I'd be nervous about proposing anything radical
>> > right now. But is there anyone on this list who is a Cambridge mapper,
>> > or connected to the university's use of mapping? It's possible that
>> > some team decided to use the tag to mark every college building (etc),
>> > when really amenity=university is supposed to mark a university, not a
>> > piece of a university.
>> >
>> > To do it "properly" it might need some neat relations to group these
>> > things. (Might be fun for someone who loves relations - various
>> > multi-site and hierarchical connections among the buildings scattered
>> > across town!) Alternatively there are tags in use such as
>> > building=university which might be good drop-in replacements...
>> >
>> > Best
>> > Dan
>> >
>> >
>> > * They use OSM for their basemap: http://map.cam.ac.uk/ - I wonder if
>> > they're getting their POI info from it too
>> >
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