When Thomas Holloway’s college welcomed its first students 130 years ago, it was a pioneering institution that was ambitious for its students. Most notable was the College’s creation of one of the first pathways for women into higher education. Less well known was Thomas Holloway’s commitment to deliver not just an excellent academic education, but also his commitment to the wider development of his students. Today we would call this ‘the student experience’. To demonstrate his commitment, Holloway funded the construction of the Founder’s Building, what would today be a multi-million pound investment, to include teaching facilities alongside bedrooms, recreation space, a library, chapel and picture gallery.
Last week our new Emily Wilding Davison Building opened. The name of the building was chosen by our students, colleagues and former and prospective students in honour of one of our most famous former students.
Like Founder’s Building, by providing state of the art resources, the Davison Building signals the ambition we have for our students in the 21st century. Sitting alongside the iconic Founder’s Building, the Davison Building is a reflection of Holloway’s belief in developing ‘the whole student’. As well as a library, packed with resources covering 13km of shelving and over 1,100 study spaces, the building provides a range of student facing services, including a student services centre, careers and employability service, IT help desk, learning support desk, café, shop and modern exhibition space.
But it is how we use the new building and what we achieve through its use that will matter.
Already, the new building is enabling our colleagues to work in new ways and to deliver even better levels of service to our students. For students, many important support services are now located in one place, improving access and providing a more integrated approach to supporting their needs. From the student services centre, that helps students from everything to registration to finding accommodation, to the library helping to create a positive study environment, to the careers service helping our students prepare for life after university, the Davison Building will become a central resource for all our students. And of course, the shop and café will keep them fed and watered!
The Davison Building has enabled us also to address important issues around access and sustainability. A lot of care has gone into the design of study spaces, to provide a range of seating to accommodate different learning styles, as well as variable height desks for those will mobility or access needs. On the roof, we have solar panels to generate electricity to help us meet our carbon reduction targets, together with modern heating and cooling systems controlled by intelligent software to ensure a comfortable and energy-efficient study environment.
The £57 million investment the College has made in the Davison Building is a sign of the ambition that we continue to have for our students and colleagues. While I hope we will see an immediate improvement in our student satisfaction measures, I also hope the investment will have a much great impact on the success of our College. The Davison Building is a catalyst for us all to renew our personal ambition for our College, finding new and better ways to work, study and support one another.