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It's all about the pod

CAMPUS SPOTLIGHT: Southampton Solent University is getting ready to open a brand-new building with innovative teaching and learning spaces

Posted by Hannah Oakman | January 26, 2016 | Estates

The centrepiece of Southampton Solent University’s new ‘Spark’ building is its futuristic pod, a multipurpose space at the heart of an impressive five-story atrium. As well as a full-sized lecture room and large video wall, the pod features an open-topped viewing platform with fantastic views across the 18m-long atrium and into the parkland beyond. 

The building around the pod will contain cutting-edge teaching and learning facilities, including 35 classrooms and five lecture rooms, interactive study spaces, and a conferencing and exhibition space available for use by Southampton businesses and the wider community – one perfectly placed in the heart of the city. 

"Solent’s approach has always been creative, inclusive and student-focused, and they have ambitious plans for the future"

The wide array of new facilities the Spark will deliver isn’t the only way it’s helping students, however. From planning to construction, every step of the process has been designed to offer opportunities for students to widen their experience, with work-placements, onsite learning, and guest lectures from architects and contractors incorporated into Solent’s courses.

Improving student experience

Making sure students gain the most out of their time at university is something Southampton Solent University prides itself on – and the University knows that means delivering more than just exceptional teaching. That dedication to the student experience was recently recognised at the 2015 Times Higher Education (THE) Awards, where Solent won THE’s Most Improved Student Experience Award.

Voted for by students as part of THE’s student experience survey, which saw 20,000 students rate the academic reputation, teaching, social life and facilities of their institutions, Solent had some of the biggest increases in ratings for its student union and quality of campus facilities.

Solent’s approach has always been creative, inclusive and student-focused, and they have ambitious plans for the future. The new Spark building is just part of a £100m estate development plan due to be completed by 2020, helping Solent continue to offer an outstanding student experience characterised by the highest-quality engagement, intellectual challenge and facilities.

‘An angel of creativity’

The University was one of only three in the UK identified as beacons of good practice in a report by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce, and Solent has been named one of the UK’s top creative universities in the Which? University student survey for the last two years. 

Entrepreneurial excellence

Solent also has a strong record in supporting and encouraging students’ entrepreneurial talent. For the second year running, it has been named as one of Britain’s top 20 universities for graduate start-ups in the Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey (HE-BCI).

With 53 graduate start-ups created in 2013/14, any student who has a business idea can find a range of services to turn their idea into a reality, including work-based learning, training schemes, funding, one-to-one mentoring, office facilities and business events. Solent has also just launched its enterprise crowdfunding platform, Launch Pad, helping challenge students and graduates to think in an entrepreneurial way, promote their businesses and raise funds independently. 

Leading the way in retail management

The University is also home to the first student-led store in a UK shopping centre. Combining academic credibility with commercial enterprise, Re:So gives students the opportunity to develop industry-led enterprise skills and an understanding of the management of a working retail environment.

Run by a team of final-year students, the store provides a variety of work-based learning opportunities for the hundreds of students on the University’s fashion courses – and sells a unique mix of fashion, accessories, publications, furniture and art produced by the University’s creative students and graduates.

ABOVE: RE:SO - STUDENT-LED SHOPPING

As well as providing teaching space for the art, design and fashion courses, the upper floor ‘learning zone’ also hosts guest speakers from the fashion industry, workshops, photo-shoots and exhibitions. The Re:So stand proved hugely popular at the Clothes Show in Birmingham, and next year students will take it on tour with a series of pop-up shops in shopping centres across the UK.

Freelancing with a safety net

Keen to give its students within the creative industries more work experience as part of their degrees, the University set up a unique student agency in 2011. That agency, Solent Creatives, provides an unprecedented opportunity for businesses and private clients to tap into the diverse pool of student talent at Solent – offering specialists in everything from graphic and website design to photography; screenwriting to public relations; and video production to make-up and hair design. 

Since launch, Solent Creatives has delivered on over 1,200 projects for more than 900 businesses, giving creative students the opportunity to hone their professional and creative skills in the real world. Solent Creatives students have worked with small businesses and big names alike, including Marks and Spencer, Southampton Airport and Bear Grylls. 

Solent offers top-class facilities for students, including:

● Timsbury Lake (BELOW,) one of only five world-renowned centres providing training for pilots, captains and ships’ officers on scaled manned models of ships and large yachts.

● A fully 3D cinema on campus, showing the latest releases at a cut-price cost – and now incorporating the latest Dolby Atmos surround-sound technology, which media technology students have access to.

● High-speed Wi-Fi throughout the University’s campuses and halls of residence.

● A BASES accredited sports physiology lab and comprehensive other sports science facilities, used by Premier League football club Southampton FC and other local teams.

● 3D printing, CDC routing, a composite materials lab and other engineering facilities for product and yacht design.

● A dedicated games lab, with the latest desktop hardware and a wide range of professional software. 

● Re:So, the only student-led store in a UK shopping centre. 

● Performance spaces, TV and recording studios (BELOW,) and dedicated fashion photography facilities.

●  Its own city-centre art gallery, offering a handful of artist-in-residence places to Solent graduates every year.

●  The new Spark building, due to open in early 2016 – with innovative teaching, events and conferencing space, from a Harvard lecture theatre to a multi-purpose pod.

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