The Learning Zone will be opened officially on Friday 15th January by Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The opening ceremony marks the £3 million investment’s formal launch as a 24-hour study area for students on campus.
With the Learning Zone now entering its fifth month of operation the official opening should serve as a turning point with teething problems a thing of the past. The Zone, which is open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, offers communal work areas, bookable bays with interactive boards and both Mac and Windows computer workstations for students to use.
It is the first area of its kind to be provided for students at Lancaster, but its first term has been fraught with difficulties. The Zone has not received universal acclaim, with the bay furniture and cycling lights criticised as unnecessary by some, whilst the automatic security doors led to humiliating problems with weight restrictions for disabled students. The resilience of the building was also called into question in the middle of November when adverse rainfall rendered newly installed Mac computers out of action as they were sheltered away from leaks.
Nevertheless, Sir Alan’s presence at the opening displays how pleased the university is with the Learning Zone’s performance so far. Among other accolades Sir Alan is an honorary professor at the University of Warwick and was previously Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee. His agreement to attend appears to display an acknowledgement from HEFCE that the money spent on the new Zone was wisely invested. There is also a strong indication that twenty four hour study areas, which Lancaster has not had available before, are seen by higher bodies as the way forward.