'Campus of future' to be open all hours

September 27, 2002

The University of Leicester has unveiled a £300 million plan to create a "campus of the future" fit for delivering a new-style higher education.

The development plan, drawn up in collaboration with architects Shepheard Epstein Hunter, aims to set a framework for organic growth over the next 30 years, increasing building capacity by 30 per cent over that period.

The emphasis for the proposed changes is on creating a more flexible environment that will support academic activities 24 hours a day.

At the heart of the campus will be an "open all hours", state-of-the-art library - almost twice the size of the current one and fitted with the latest computer equipment.

The round-the-clock campus will also feature new communal sectors with catering outlets, designed to promote interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary teaching and research by providing meeting points for academics and students from different subject areas.

Car parks will be moved underground to allow more room for buildings and pedestrianised spaces.

The university also hopes to create a new public entrance in the style of a North American university precinct, in a bid to promote an "open access" image.

It plans to knock down a wall that obscures the campus from the public view so that it can develop the precinct.

Leicester vice-chancellor Bob Burgess said the plan was deliberately in the format of a framework rather than a blueprint so that the university could incorporate new features and facilities in response to changing markets and demands over the next 30 years.

Academics are to be consulted on what they think should be built into the plan to meet the future requirements of their disciplines.

Professor Burgess said: "As our student clientele changes so our physical site needs to change. The campus needs to be able to respond to a variety of demands.

"If you are talking about students who may not be full time, then you have to think about how the resources of the campus can be available through a much extended day. You have to think about the physical side and have a much more flexible framework from which you can develop in relation to the new markets, both for teaching and research."

He added: "Alongside this we are looking at academic developments. When we have firmed up some of those, they will affect the physical side and the whole thing will lock together."

The new campus will have to accommodate planned growth in student and staff numbers. The university expects to increase its student population from 18,500 to 25,000 within a decade, and create at least 1,000 more staff jobs.

But it is changes in the nature of learning and student expectations that are likely to dominate debate during the next two months of consultation on the plans.

Simon Britton, Leicester's director of estates, said: "We need to recognise that views about the ideal size of rooms and the type of space we need can change dramatically over time.

"What is becoming apparent is that the pattern of student life is changing. Some want to be able to start studying at 5am. We need to be able to cater for that."

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