Provost's View: Developments for UCL East
12 May 2016
I would like to congratulate Sadiq Khan on his election as Mayor of London on 5 May.
There is growing excitement and interest about the academic proposals for the new campus and I would like to thank all those colleagues who engaged so positively with the recent consultation process on the four academic scenarios. As you may recall, the four scenarios emerged from a process of inviting the academic community to identify proposals for new and innovative activity to form part of Phase 1 of UCL East, which will open during the 2019/20 academic year.
Staff views on the academic scenarios
The overall response was very positive, with colleagues agreeing that the proposals demonstrate a compelling academic vision, and are an appropriate fit to the innovative new environment we are creating at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. There were also some well-targeted and insightful criticisms on particular issues. All of these comments have been valuable in developing our thinking. The key messages from the consultation include:
- a strong sense that rather than picking one of the scenarios, we should look to combine as many of their strengths as possible;
- considerable concern about the viability of activities that straddled Bloomsbury and UCL East and particular risks for the experience of our students;
- that we must ensure that UCL East's financial performance is beneficial to that of wider UCL;
- that we should take the opportunity to improve the way we operate and use our estate - drawing upon the latest expertise - and also to make sure that teaching and learning spaces receive high priority;
- that we should look to maximise the benefit for our Bloomsbury-based activities, through appropriate relocation;
- that our new engineering activities should particularly address manufacturing and making related areas to support long-term strategic development of our engineering presence;
- that we must aspire to provide new routes into higher education through our new activities;
- a concern that proposed activity titles were too full of 'buzzwords'.
These comments closely reflect some of my own feelings on the scenarios. However, as a result of the consultation process, I believe the proposals are now more strongly grounded.
Moving towards an integrated academic plan
Instead of taking forward any of the individual scenarios, we have decided to develop an integrated academic plan that includes more of the proposed activities than any of the individual scenarios on which we consulted.
Essentially, we felt these ideas were so strong that we wanted to see as many of them as possible in UCL East. We also believe that most of the activities are more likely to thrive when combined together in a bigger cluster than any of the stand-alone scenarios.
A group of proposal leads are now working together to unpack their previous proposals and put them together into a new, more detailed single holistic plan, developed in the context of the evolving design of the facilities. The list of the proposals that are being worked up in this new mix is as follows:
- Advanced Propulsion Laboratory
- "Business Academy"
- Centre for Access to Justice
- Creative Engagement Hub
- Culture Lab
- Experimental Engineering Research and Learning Hub
- Foundation College
- Future Heritage
- Global Future Cities Co-Labs
- Imaging Hub
- Manufacturing Futures Laboratory
- Nature Smart Cities
- Research and Learning Hub
- Robotics and Autonomous Systems Hub
As you can see, the list includes two new proposals that have emerged over recent months: a UCL "Business Academy" and a UCL Foundation College. For further information on all of these options, please see the UCL East website (staff password required).
I believe that this represents an exciting mix, drawn from across many faculties and departments. It develops the UCL EAST vision of linking across Experiment, Art, Society and Technology, as well as breaking barriers between teaching, research, enterprise and public engagement. It offers new ways of addressing global challenges, new opportunities for students, scholars and researchers, and new ways of connecting with communities and partners. I am very grateful to the colleagues who are working to develop these plans
Of course, any selection process of this kind means that some very exciting proposals will not be going forward to phase one of UCL East and I would like to thank disappointed colleagues for their creativity and hard work in developing their proposals to this stage.
We still have a good way to go, of course, to get from a set of exciting proposals to the first phase of a new campus, with much detail around student demand, design of facilities, funding, staff recruitment and external grant and philanthropic funding to be worked out. I have no doubt that the proposals will change over time as we work through this process and there will be further progress reports in due course.
Progress on the Masterplan
Alongside the developments in our academic thinking, we have been making excellent progress on shaping our masterplan for the site and I am grateful to all those staff, students and local stakeholders who contributed their views during the recent round of masterplan consultation. Our masterplanners, LDA Design, are now considering the key points raised and you can find a summary of the consultation report here (pdf).
We had almost 80 submissions to the procurement process for design teams to undertake the detailed design work for phase one of UCL East and we hope to confirm the appointments of the selected teams in the summer. We remain on course to make our outline planning application for UCL East - alongside the other cultural and educational elements of the proposed Olympicopolis quarter - in December.
I am enormously grateful to Professor David Price, Vice Provost (Research) and colleagues on the Academic Programme Board for making such excellent progress in shaping the academic vision and content for UCL East to date.
Given the strategic importance of UCL East in the delivery of our UCL 2034 Vision, I will now be assuming overall leadership of the project, as we bring the academic and masterplan strands together over the next period. This will also enable me to coordinate leading UCL East with my leadership of the UCL Campaign. We plan to raise significant external funding for UCL East and the visionary and exciting nature of the proposals for Phase 1 will help us to achieve that.
I would also like to thank Adam Harman, UCL East Project Director in the UCL Estates team, who left UCL in April after five years dedicated work on this complex and challenging project. Martin Summersgill is now the lead Estates team contact for the project.
We will continue to keep you updated on progress - further information on UCL East is available here.
Professor Michael Arthur,
President and Provost
Image: The ArcelorMittal Orbit, next to the future site of UCL East