In with the new kit

Simon Fry rounds up the latest developments on campus as students start to arrive for the new academic year

It’s not just students arriving for the start of the new academic year with new accoutrements. Many universities have installed new technology and furniture while others are opening premises’ doors for the first time.

Building work at two south west universities is ample proof demand for a university education remains high. The champagne corks popped at Bath Spa University in June when Lord Puttnam CBE attended the launch of its new ‘Learning Commons’ building at its Newton Park Campus. The building provides a range of spaces and rooms available to students and staff, including learning pods, soundproof editing suites and what will be the south west’s largest television studio.

Lord Puttnam CBE said: “Having walked around Commons, the facilities are absolutely stunning. All of a sudden and for the first time in a long time, I wanted to be 18 years old again and going to university, it is quite remarkable. This wonderful digital facility will produce a lot of talented people, the sort of facility any university anywhere in the world would envy.”

A large number of the university’s staff, students and distinguished guests attended the launch, with over 30 staff and student collaborative projects animating the building. Performances, exhibitions and installations on display included excerpts from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a creative tea party with poetry and a liquid nitrogen ice-cream project.

Elsewhere at Bath Spa, a new residential block, as yet untitled, is due to open in time for September’s intake. Housing up to 561 occupants, it features a courtyard design with individual ‘houses’ for up to 10 students. Close to the Students’ Union’s facilities, the new residences offer a shared kitchen/living room space and en suite study bedrooms of a very high standard.

A few miles west along the M4, the first phase of a development at UWE Bristol will also be complete in September. The £13m project to create 396 new student bedrooms on the University’s Frenchay Campus saw Professor Steve West (Vice-Chancellor) lay the foundation stone in a ceremony in January.

Wallscourt Park Residences features a three-and four-storey ‘town house’ student village concept with separate central security, reception and laundry hub. This project is the first of a three-phase development eventually providing around 1,200 bed spaces on the Frenchay Campus. Professor West said: “Providing modern, accessible, quality accommodation is a key aspect of the way UWE Bristol supports students as they begin their academic journey. It helps to underpin the learning experience particularly in the first year, when students are finding their feet away from home.”

Elsewhere at UWE Bristol, construction of a building providing a dedicated space for UWE Students’ Union (UWESU), to include trading outlets and office accommodation for UWESU support staff started on 16 June, with completion due by summer 2015.

Continued, extensive investment in university property, technology and fixtures and fittings is ample proof, if it were needed, higher education has emerged, resolutely forward-looking, from the recession.

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