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Provost's Perspective: Transforming UCL - from the New Student Centre to UCL East

13 May 2016

As the third term ramps up here at UCL, the vast majority of you are focused on the examinations and dissertations that are taking up most of your time. No doubt, while you visit the library and study spaces around campus, you will have passed by many of the improvement works that we are currently carrying out as part of the Transforming UCL programme.

Professor Michael Arthur and Jonathan Taylor Vice President of the European Investment Bank pictuerd at UCL following the landmark £280million loan for campus developments

You may also have seen some of the recent media coverage regards UCL’s £280m European Investment Bank loan for campus developments, the largest sum ever lent by the bank to a university.

The loan will be used to fund developments including the New Student Centre, 22 Gordon Street and the UCL East campus. I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on what we currently are doing to develop our estate.

In addition, with many of you remaining on campus this summer, I thought it would be useful to provide you with an update on work taking place at UCL during the summer months which includes the investment of around £5 million in improvements to ten student halls of residences.

The New Student Centre

The New Student Centre sits at the heart of the vision to make our university the most exciting in the world at which to study and work. You may have noticed that construction has already started, next to the Bloomsbury Theatre, with completion targeted for autumn 2018.

UCL New Student Centre

Built across two underground floors and four floors above ground level, and a roof terrace, students will have access to 1,000 study spaces and a new café as well as IT clusters.

The centre will harness the latest in sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies and be our benchmark of excellence for all future projects with 400 sq metres of electric solar panels on the roof, a ground source heat pump to cool the building in the summer, and automatic windows to naturally ventilate the building in the spring and autumn.

22 Gordon Street

The redevelopment of 22 Gordon Street (formally Wates House) is a clear example of some of the challenges we face on our Bloomsbury campus. The building opened forty years ago and was designed to house the 380 students and 90 staff who made up the Bartlett School of Architecture.

With 2,300 students and staff in a faculty spread across eight buildings, the school will now have a modern home which will double the amount of teaching and research space available to the school, meaning that every student will have access to a desk.

There is more studio and breakout space, along with formal and informal exhibition spaces at ground floor level, a new staircase, a re-imagined entrance and a new coffee bar.

A seven-storey extension and an additional floor will offer superb views of London to provide an environment that is very much in keeping with the standard of architectural education and research happening inside the building.

Wilkins Terrace

Works to Wilkins Terrace continue and when completed will transform the existing area outside the North Cloisters into a social and events space.

The completed terrace will provide a high-quality open space for different types of events including student fairs, fashion shows, exhibitions, degree shows and award ceremonies as well as being used as a performance space and venue for formal receptions.

It will also lead to a newly refurbished and extended Lower Refectory, all opening towards the end of the year.

Faculty of Laws

We are investing in developing the Faculty of Laws by refurbishing the heritage-listed Bentham House whilst also creating new space by modernising and extending the Gideon Schreier Wing.

Faculty of Laws

Links will be created between the two buildings to improve accessibility and provide a high-quality environment for teaching and learning. The building will feature a new reception area leading to a social hub and café for the faculty's students, staff and visitors, with adjoining teaching and event spaces.

The building will also feature a range of brand new features including student and staff common rooms, offices, seminar and tutorial rooms, quiet study areas, a lecture theatre, and a dedicated study suite for postgraduate research students.

UCL East

While we continue to refurbish and redevelop our iconic buildings, we are also aware that further growth within Bloomsbury is difficult. This is what has led us to developing plans for the UCL East campus at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Our masterplan for the site continues to take shape and we are working towards opening the first phase of the new campus during the 2019/20 academic year. The unique, 11-acre campus will provide the environment for world-leading research, education, entrepreneurship and innovation and will contribute to the Olympic legacy and the regeneration of East London.

Plans over the summer

Transforming UCL is more than just the big, highly visible projects. Much of the work undertaken by the estates team is to improve individual teaching spaces, repair or replace essential building infrastructure and ensure that our buildings are safe and secure.

An important programme this summer will be the investment of around £5 million in improvement works to ten student halls of residences.

During the summer and beyond, the Estates team will be carrying out a series of improvements to many buildings including fire escape and exhaust ventilation compliance works, lift and toilet refurbishments, and internal and external decorations.

Further work will take place to maintain heating and electrical systems within central campus buildings, whilst ensuring the lowest possible carbon impact. Investment is also being made on refrigerant-gas, water hygiene and asbestos compliance and campus-wide security systems to ensure our buildings are secure and continue to be safe.

My final thoughts go to you – thank you for your forbearance as we tackle this most difficult and, at times, contentious of problems that must be resolved if we are to deliver our UCL 2034 strategy. As some of these projects near completion, you will witness the beginning of what I believe will be the long-term transformation of UCL as a leading, world-class institution.

As we continue to make progress I will endeavour to keep you up to date and provide you with new information when we have major milestones to report. In the meantime if you would like further information, please visit the Transforming UCL website.

Images, from top to bottom:

  1. Professor Michael Arthur and Jonathan Taylor, Vice President of the European Investment Bank, pictured at UCL following the landmark £280million loan for campus developments.
  2. Aerial view of the construction of the UCL New Student Centre which has already started next to the Bloomsbury Theatre.
  3. Visualisation of the Faculty of Laws redevelopment.

Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President & Provost

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