What’s happening in Senate House?

Plans to transform Senate House are about to get started. Here Lynn Robinson, Deputy Registrar, talks about what’s changing. 

We are about to start transforming Senate House to provide new, accessible spaces to eat and drink, in a large food court, dining area and café. Housed in a beautiful glass-fronted, two-storey atrium, the new space will be open to everyone in our community and will be ready by September 2020, a year earlier than planned.

We’ve listened to feedback for a long time that there aren’t enough places to eat and relax on campus and there’s a shortage of space and lack of choice. This new area with seating for over 300 people and a wide range of food choices, will create opportunities for our whole community to catch up over a coffee, or just be together in a type of space that we’ve never had before.

You will see the changes starting soon, as hoardings and signs go up around the building, to let you know what’s happening where and when. We will do everything possible to minimise the impact of the work, so we’re scheduling the most disruptive work over the summer when many in our community are away. For the postgraduate students and staff who are here, we’ll do our best to let you know in advance about noise.

I genuinely hope that most staff won’t be affected because the noise and vibration shouldn’t extend beyond the building. However, as with any building work on this scale, there will be some disruption day to day as we start to create our new space. What we’ve learnt from other construction projects is that it can be difficult to predict noise levels, so while we will set up regular communications to keep you informed about what’s happening when, we won’t be able to stop the noise, so please bear with us.

As work gets started in the courtyard and on the lower floors, Senate House will close from 10 June to 23 September 2019 and the student services will temporarily relocate over the summer. Many will re-open in September albeit in different locations, and Senate House will remain open during the building work, because the feedback is that it is preferable to provide these services alongside noise, rather than closing for a year.

For me, one of the key benefits of the changes will be having a place that’s big enough for our staff and students to eat, relax and socialise together. At a time when space in academic schools is at a premium and new ways of working means staff are spread across our campus, this communal space feels important for our university.

So, as we live through a period of disruption in Senate House, please keep in mind that by 2020 we will have a fantastic new landmark venue and destination. It’s another step towards our ambition to build a stronger community of staff, students and locals right here in the heart of our university.

Thank you for your understanding.

Lynn Robinson, Deputy Registrar