Foundation for the future - questions and answers
What is UWE buying?
The University is buying 70 acres of land including two very large buildings, additional catering facilities and the former farmhouse. The land is equivalent to 42 football pitches or 2 Cabot Circuses. The current Frenchay Campus site is 80 acres.
Why is UWE buying it?
This purchase is an important foundation to creating our vision for a 'Campus for the 21st Century' and is our chance to improve our student and staff experience by providing contemporary facilities for teaching and learning, as well as reaching out to employers, businesses and the community through enhanced conference facilities, premises and space to facilitate knowledge exchange.
It will specifically ensure our long term competitiveness, help improve our position in the University rankings and future income streams.
Improvements in infrastructure are being made in all areas of the education sector, whether HE, FE or in schools. We need to keep up with those expectations and importantly create a new campus environment to enhance the experience for students, staff and partners.
Will this mean closing other campuses?
The purchase of the new land is a major opportunity for us to consolidate our campuses. This means we will be looking to transfer provision and services to the new campus first from St Matthias and then Glenside and the Bristol Business Park over the next 3-10 years but not in the short term. To update our premises at St Matthias and Glenside would require substantial capital investment to bring them up to the expectations of staff and students. Whilst it will not be sensible to make big investments in these campuses the intention will be to look after the maintenance of these campuses in the meantime.
Any change will be done in a measured way and subject to master planning involving staff, students and other partners.
The aim longer term is to achieve greater cohesion and integration of subject areas and services. Staff and students will be kept informed but the only initial moves will be possibly reducing our dependency on rented accommodation in the Dupont building.
Is it a good time to buy?
The forecast is that despite the current economic climate, prospects for the Greater Bristol and South West region are good. The University’s new campus will have a positive impact on the region and its competitiveness.
We have looked very carefully at the impact of the recent falls in property values and concluded that it is a good time to buy. We have taken independent professional advice from two sources and in both cases the advice is that we are paying an appropriate price for the property.
What is UWE planning to build?
There are no plans yet to put up any new buildings on the site. Initially we want to undertake a master planning exercise involving staff, students, employers and other partners to determine what will work best for the whole campus. This will take into account the modern learner and will be supportive of modern learning approaches.
This master planning will be sensitive to the needs of both business and community and how we can build better relationships.
When will UWE be moving on to the new site?
The master planning exercise will last at least a year to ensure that we plan the site well. We will look for some opportunistic uses of the land and buildings in the shorter term such as moving the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and the Vice Chancellor's office (both currently based in rented accommodation in the Dupont building), and consider use of buildings for exhibition space and conferencing.
How will UWE fund the development?
This will be paid for by preferred bank loans, reserves and HEFCE Capital Grants. In the short term, because we are borrowing this will appear as an additional liability on our balance sheet and this will increase the cost of our annual outgoings. Over time we expect to dispose of surplus assets which will reduce the costs of that borrowing.
Can UWE afford this?
This purchase is about using our reserves to invest in the University’s future and protecting our future income streams, ensuring that the campus remains attractive in a competitive environment and importantly meeting the needs of future staff, students and employers. We also have been successful in securing a loan deal from our banks. This clearly demonstrates the banks' very real confidence in the University. We hope also by creating a campus more fit for purpose and buildings that are better utilised and integrated we can make savings in the costs of energy and reduce duplication of services.
Will this worsen the traffic problems around Frenchay Campus?
The master planning will also take this into account. We will be looking for innovative ways to address the traffic issues through a greener transport policy and looking at options with the timetabling. The aim will be to create better access to the site with faster entrance and exit from the campus, to improve public transport links, and to separate car traffic from public transport, cycling and pedestrians.
Will there be additional car parking spaces?
The number of car park spaces is controlled by the local authority planners – as part of the master planning exercise we will be entering into discussions with the planners on car park provision, but given their current policies we do not expect additional spaces to become available.
Who will benefit?
Although it will be impossible to do all we would like to do and priorities will need to be made, the intention is that overall everyone will benefit through the creation of a more coherent and improved campus.
Does this mean UWE will be increasing student numbers or growing its research?
We will be looking to keep the numbers of full time undergraduate students steady. It is hoped that the new campus will allow us to grow in those areas where there is greater potential like part-time, block release in UK and international postgraduate and professional courses. We will also be focusing on areas of research where we have a particular strength.
How does this fit with UWE's interest in Swindon?
We are still in conversation with Swindon Borough Council, Swindon employers and funding bodies over what we can do to support provision for anything between 1,000 and 5,000 students in Swindon, but this is very much dependent on finding sufficient external funding for capital investment.
Are plans for the Science Park at Emerson’s Green still going ahead?
Spark, the new science park, is still going ahead and we are part of the discussions, along with Bristol and Bath universities.
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