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On Friday 15th January, over 70 guests were invited to the official opening of the state of the art Learning Zone, which had opened its doors to Lancaster students three months previous.
Sabbatical officers, JCR presidents old and new and University Directors were among those invited to the event hosted by Vice-Chancellor, Paul Wellings. At 9:15, guests arrived at the £3 million Learning Zone, which is situated in Alexandra Square, for registration and refreshments. Wellings welcomed everyone to the celebrations and promptly handed over to Amanda Chetwynd, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Colleges and Student Experience, who highlighted the transformation of the university in to a world class institution. Chetwynd also discussed how the Learning Zone was created in partnership with the students from the starting point.
Chetwynd commented, “Students told us that we have good, quiet spaces but they would like places where they could work in groups, areas to practise presentations, where they could work with a cup of coffee, with comfortable seating and wi-fi – and so we set up a group to design such a space”.
The stage was then handed over to Sir Alan Langlands FRSE, Chief Executive of HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England), who unveiled a plaque inside the Learning Zone to commemorate the official opening of the open plan learning space.
Langlands said, “I see this as a University that is fizzing with innovative ideas and which is very conscious of its responsibilities towards students with this high quality Learning Zone. What is especially well done is the combination of access to online resources backed by highly motivated teaching staff and students.”
The event ended around 10:30 with a few closing remarks from Wellings and an opportunity for guests to take a tour around the facility with celebratory refreshments.
Luke Anderson, Furness JCR President, commented “From aesthetics to technology, I think that the Learning Zone is very well-suited to working in groups, catching up on readings or seeing ISS. It did disturb the centre of campus and exams at the time and some students see it as a waste of money that could possibly be spent differently but as it is functioning – despite the flooding- it has helped a lot of students”.
LUSU President, Michael Payne, also attended the official opening, and told LU Text: “A 24/7 flexible space where students can study, socialise and relax is a massive welcome and it puts students right at the heart of campus and shows that the University is investing in their experience.”
A first year History student, Sam Georgiou, said “It’s pretty good in there to be honest. It’s a great place to get some work done and it is certainly a lot more comfy to do work in there than it is in the library. I know there have been a few problems with it but generally it gives a refreshing change as you have more options rather than just the library”.
Over the past three years, Lancaster University has invested £3 million on new teaching, residential and social facilities creating the university into a world class institution achieving international recognition for the quality of its teaching with 92% of its research being recognised of an international standard. The university is ranked in the top 200 of universities in the world as well as being ranked number one in the North West beating high competition from its neighbours, Manchester and Liverpool Universities.
Despite the continuous refurbishments and construction of new facilities over the past three years such as the Grizedale social space, and a re-vamp of County South and Faraday Lecture Theatre, there is still more campus developments to come. The next two years will see the construction of the £20 million sports centre as well as a new hub for the Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts that will act at the public face for the LICA groups. Several refurbishment schemes will commence on Alexandra Square, the University underpass and both Bowland College and bar, transforming their current appearance into a modern facility. Also, several landscape improvements are underway from a new secure cycle shelters to electric BBQ stations with sinks and lighting.