University targets student expansion in Estate Masterplan

By Emma Pinckard

Durham University has revealed its “Estate Masterplan” which outlines a new, ten-year University Strategy for estates development.

The strategy aims to secure the academic successes of the University and allow for long-term developments to the estate, prioritising teaching, research, and student accommodation.

The Estate Masterplan identifies four major areas for development: “Strategic Investment Zones,” “Safeguarding Heritage Assets,” a “Sustainable Future,” and “Academic Life.”

It includes plans to further invest in Science Site buildings, existing colleges, the Education department, and Elvet Riverside. In addition to this, the University plan to build new colleges to allow for the increase in the student population.

The University intends to open Sheraton Park in Neville’s Cross as a college for postgraduate students—replacing Ustinov College—and to build a new college at Mount Oswald, located past Van Mildert and across from Josephine Butler, to accommodate students moving from Stockton.

Durham has also outlined aspirations to increase the number of students living in college accommodation to 50-55% by 2027 through developments to the estate in building on University land, and through working with purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) providers.

The University claim to have established “the future size and shape of the University which will be needed to support the vision to be ‘world-leading in research, education and the wider student experience,’” as well as to “safeguard Durham’s position as a collegiate University at the heart of the national, regional, and local economy.”

In addition to expanding the University through building and developing the expansive estate, Durham have communicated plans to gradually increase the number of students while continuing to be one of the smallest in the Russell Group.

The relocation of students from Queen’s Campus alone will increase the number of students in the city by another 5,700.

The University has estimated that there will be an increase of, at most, an additional 4,000 students by 2026/27.

The University has outlined three “priority investments” for targeted investment at Mount Oswald, St Mary’s Field, and Maiden Castle.

In addition to outlining plans for the expansion of the University, the Masterplan also reveals how the University buildings and parts of the campus can be integrated through- out the city “in order to create a better balanced community and to conserve and enhance heritage assets.”

The University has acknowledged the need to make sure that “any future investment in University assets both protect and enhance the area’s natural and built environment.”

In these plans, Durham has also committed to invest in a “Sustainable Future”, supporting the University’s Carbon Management Plan, investing in sustainable buildings, and improving pedestrian and cycle routes across the city.

In addition to this, the University has claimed that the new Academic Strategy will create over 1,000 new jobs in the area.

The University’s governing bodies will consider several options for the development of the estate in light of the public consultation which took place on Tuesday 11th  and Wednesday 12th October, where representatives from the Estates team were available to give information about the Masterplan to members of the public.

Before the consultation, Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “Over the last 180 years, Durham University and City have grown organically, side-by-side.

“Over the next decade, the Masterplan will set us on course to improve and rationalise the University’s assets for the benefit of the whole City, students, and businesses.”

He voiced his enthusiasm for “this exciting plan, which has the potential to deliver great benefits for staff, students, residents, businesses, and the wider community.

“We want the Masterplan to be mutually beneficial for all local stakeholders and contribute to the ongoing vitality and prosperity of the City.”

Since the consultation, Professor Corbridge has expressed his delight at the response, and said: “We are extremely pleased that so many staff, students and members of the public have taken part in the consultation events for our Estate Masterplan.

“Our ambition is to grow and develop an estate that is fit for purpose, will accommodate growth and will enhance the student experience, as well as Durham’s international reputation, in a carefully planned, transparent and sustainable way.”

The University emphasised the importance of the new Masterplan to Palatinate, stating: “The Accommodation and Estates Strategy is key to the new University Strategy, the goals of which are to produce world-leading and world-changing research; education that is challenging, difficult, enabling, research-led and transformative; and, through our colleges, Experience Durham and Durham Students’ Union, a wider student experience to rival the best in the world.

“The University is proud of the positive contribution it makes to Durham, Stockton and the North East and is committed to working with students, staff, businesses, residents, the voluntary sector, and other partners to ensure we deliver the best possible outcomes for our city and the wider area.

“Any growth will be carefully planned and managed and the University will be mindful of the needs and interests of all interested parties.

“Currently, the University’s facilities are unevenly spread across Durham and some require investment. Over the next ten years, it is intended to better consolidate Departments and Colleges in more distinct geographical zones, to ease pedestrian congestion and reduce travel distances.

“As the Strategy is still in development, decisions on funding are yet to be taken. The University has financial reserves in place but will also be looking to external partners to support its vision, as is normal practice for major capital projects at universities.”

Photograph: Durham University

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