First impressions

The furniture choices universities make play a big part of their first impression on new students, says David Hall, Godfrey Syrett

Could you tell us more about Godfrey Syrett and how you work with universities? 

Founded in 1947, Godfrey Syrett is one of the largest manufacturers of office furniture and soft seating to the university sector. As the only furniture manufacturer in the country on every University Consortium Framework, we’ve a significant amount of experience in working with higher education bodies to create exciting new spaces for faculties, libraries and student unions. We are also very active in the student accommodation market. 

What sets you apart from other furniture manufacturers? 

As a company, we pride ourselves on the service we offer our customers. We are a full-service business, managing our customers’ orders from initial conversation to installation and after sales. 

We are able to offer our customers support with design and space planning, and also have the capacity to produce bespoke pieces of furniture where required. Products are then manufactured, delivered and installed, with all packaging returned to our site to be re-used or recycled.

How does the right furniture impact on the learning experience? 

In recent years, we have seen universities acknowledge the need to offer a flexible learning environment to their students, with a variety of spaces tailored to different needs. As well as traditional lecture theatres and libraries, there has been a shift in focus towards seminar teaching and group work. As a result, universities need to ensure they are equipped with furniture that facilitates collaborative working and learning, as well as spaces for quiet and individual study. Our Solar modular sofa is ideal for creating a corner space for group work, while a booth solution such as Spark-Hi will offer a semi-private workspace. The panels on Spark-Hi offer acoustic benefits, blocking off more surrounding noise and allowing for greater concentration.

Have you had to expand/diversify your business model as universities have evolved and developed in recent years? 

Yes, absolutely – we are continuously investing in our business and processes to support sustainable growth in our target sectors. We developed our soft seating range to be able to meet the growth in use of soft seating. Demand for these products has grown so much that we have recently invested in a state-of-the-art fabric-cutting solution for our upholstery site in Killingworth, which will massively increase our productivity and enable us to keep up with market demand.  

What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the HE sector over the next few months? 

The competition between universities to attract students to their courses remains high. With rising tuition fees and a competitive job market; universities must be able to offer both a modern, engaging and functional environment – in both faculty buildings and accommodation blocks – and be able to equip their students with the skills to be able to successfully enter the workforce once they graduate. The furniture choices that a university makes will play a huge part in their first impression on prospective students. Our designers and space planners work with universities, contractors and investors to create an environment that meets their needs and makes the most of their available space. 

Do you have any exciting developments in the pipeline you can share with us? 

We’ve got lots of exciting projects coming up over the next few months. We are very proud to have been selected as furniture supplier for the prestigious UWE Faculty of Business and Law new build, which completes in December of this year. A £50m project; the five floor FBL will offer students and staff innovative and collaborative learning and social spaces. We’re also working with Balfour Beatty on the Kennedy Street development in Glasgow; their first project as a direct letting agent for student accommodation.  

Aside from these projects, we are also continuing to develop and refine our ranges of collaborative furniture such as Zip: a range of modular furniture with four base modules which zips and unzips for easy configuration. 

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