The focus of Oldham College is to provide outstanding vocational education for learners to improve the economic prosperity of the town and the Greater Manchester sub-region. In line with growth sectors in the economy, it is modernising its facilities and curriculum to create a radically new Oldham College. Total capital investment in the site totals £31million: the first serious investment in vocational and technical education in Oldham for a generation.
The first new building was opened in April by the Duke of Gloucester, who, as a former architect himself, was interested to see the workmanship and sustainable technologies involved in the transformation of the campus into a 21st-century learning hub.
Designed by Aedas and working with Laing O’Rourke, the £7million five-storey building houses 28 light and airy classrooms, a community space, new student support facilities and a new front entrance to the college. This new building is located close to the corner of the site, permitting greater visibility and easier access from the town for visitors and students. Home to public and professional services, including early years, childcare and business, it brings a high-quality learning environment which will also be more energy efficient.
Alun Francis, Oldham College’s principal and chief executive, says: “Our strategic objectives for this redevelopment included reducing the cost of keeping the estate and creating a more sustainable campus along with increasing the level of excellent or very good accommodation. These were identified by the architects at the master planning stage early on in the project’s timeline and were the driving force behind the delivery of all the building design.”
Imran Kassim, of Aedas, the lead architect on the project, adds: “The buildings in the new suite at Oldham College are all designed to reflect modern methods of construction, high levels of thermal and acoustic performance and are also designed for a long life with low levels of maintenance. They are conceived as simple, elegant, orthogonal and well-proportioned blocks, using simple and robust materials with a palette of natural colours. Materials include graphite-coloured concrete, metallic grey paint finishes and limited amounts of colour which will look good for many years to come. Inspirational teaching spaces and learning zones are characterised by good levels of light and ventilation, controlled acoustics and a natural way-finding layout. External spaces are well planted and drained to provide quiet seating, eating and studying spaces.”
The next new development to open at Oldham College is The GM (the Greater Manchester Sustainable Engineering University Technical College). Opening in September, Oldham College is the further education partner of this purpose-built £9million centre of excellence for 14-19-year-olds.
In January 2015, the UK’s first ever Career College opens and will be housed in a new £9million facility. It will specialise in skills for digital and creative industries, combining academic knowledge with practical industry experience and understanding for its students. The first of its kind in the country, it aims to develop the next generation of skilled people who can make anything possible through software, design, technology and creativity. Planning permission has recently come through for the final new building in the current redevelopment plan due to open in April 2015. This will be home to hair and beauty courses and a commercial salon plus classroom-based learning for travel and tourism, sport and uniformed public services learning.