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University of Exeter - Forum

Background and Context


Learner Provider Type


Higher Education


Type of Project


New Build – regeneration of central campus in the light of anticipated demand from student body for world class facilities


Start Date/End Date


April 2010 to April 2012


Case Study tags: learning spaces, new build, university of exeter, south-west englandhigher education


Context of the Development 


Senior management anticipated rising expectations from the student body coupled with a tired 1960s feel to the centre of campus and dominated by car parks.


What is it?


The Forum is a stunning new £48 million centrepiece that has transformed the heart of the Streatham Campus.




Funding Sources


The project was funded through loans, fundraising, lease premium from the student residences transaction and income from joint ventures. No government funding has been used nor was the project being funded by increased student tuition fees.


Cost of Project


Forum Project £48 million including Library refurbishment (£7.58 million).




  • Wifi enabled throughout
  • 75% of all library seats are in range of a power supply and the library offers 105 PC cluster seats and a multimedia suite
  • all seminar rooms have wifi, wired power and data provision
  • auditorium seats all have wired power and data and 50% swivel so that occupants can collaborate with each other
  • 2 technology-rich Exploration labs with 60 tablet PCs and 10 65” multitouch surface tables
  • technology training lab
  • Student Enterprise-driven one stop enquiry desk supported by roving staff with ipads
  • e-kiosks
  • self-service laptop lending and storage lockers
  • videoconferencing
  • Echo360 lecture recording etc.


Adding Value


The use of technology encourages collaborative working amongst users; maximises access to learning materials and popular communication modes using wifi and fixed power; potential for online exams etc; includes videoconferencing provision to reach users at other sites/locations.


Success Factors


What Makes The Space Successful?


The inspirational mix of outside and inside space includes a new Student Services Centre, refurbished library, retail and catering outlets and technology-rich learning spaces.


An integrated, heart of campus meeting place drawing together Guild of Students building with the Forum Library as well as 12 new seminar rooms, technology-rich 400 seat auditorium, Exploration labs, one-stop student services centre (bringing together 11 central services such as accommodation, fees, wellbeing, employability etc.), cafes, bank and retail areas. Integration is not only locational but also technological.


The Forum project is a development that will bring together formal and informal learning spaces and frontline services for students, alongside catering and retail spaces for students and staff.  It will provide a focus at the centre of the Streatham Campus for people rather than vehicles and give a sense of arrival to the campus… What is absolutely essential is that it works for the students.  It needs to be flexible so that if future needs change the buildings can be easily adjusted to suit, and flexible so that spaces can potentially be used for a range of activity and to promote the University’s cultural values.  Vision statement from David Allen – Registrar and Deputy Chief Executive.

Reflects the University’s ambition to remain well within the UK’s top 10 higher education institutions in the context of rising student expectations. Environmentally friendly (BREEAM Excellent), Accessible, Collaborative and Innovative.



What Is Innovative About The Design And The Use Of The Space?


Architecturally innovative design notably the roof structure (Wilkinson Eyre Architects). Innovative service delivery through one-stop Student Services desk and roving staffing support. Integrated student-centred facilities including library, learning spaces, Guild of Students services and social spaces.


The environmental impact of the Forum building was minimised through design and methodology. Construction materials have been re-used and recycled where possible and Green Guide ‘A’ rated materials incorporated at every opportunity.

Biodiversity on campus was monitored throughout the build and extensive measures taken to anticipate the effects of the development on the local ecology, wherever possible rare plants and trees were moved or carefully protected.

The building fabric and glazing used in the Forum has achieved a level of thermal performance 10% better than that required by building regulations. This will deliver a serious reduction in energy use and CO2 emissions.


The development provides over a hundred extra cycle spaces, plus showers and lockers, to promote cycling and walking to campus, and the new piazzas create a more pedestrian focus.


Recycling bins are being placed in strategic locations around the forum building to facilitate a sustainable waste strategy and a composter has been brought onto site to provide organic waste processing services for the whole campus with up to 3500 litres of organic waste to be converted into compost every week and used to keep the luscious grounds at the University looking their best.


Top Tips/Lessons Learned


  • Have a clear view of design headlines before meeting the architect
  • Ensure the contractors know what the operational parameters are – give them a summary document in the contract emphasising pinch points
  • Move out completely if you can possibly do so – construction will be much quicker in an empty building and probably less disruptive to users
  • Plan meticulously and avoid moving anything more often than necessary – applies as much to entrances and paths as it does to library stock
  • Always have a contingency for everything – Builders don’t wait
  • Mitigate where possible but don’t make the situation too complex for users or contractors – NB some people prefer to study at 6am or at weekends.
  • Users can be conservative – in the library they may object when they can’t sit where they have always sat and with whom they wish to sit or if anything becomes more difficult than it used to be (e.g. finding the library entrance or a longer walk across campus)
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate (staff, users – including externals, contractors, senior management)
  • Keep the project goal and benefits in everyone’s mind


Additional Information


Intensive mitigation measures were required throughout the construction period in order to maintain services, most notably in the library, in close proximity to the building site boundaries.


Post Occupancy


Changes Made As A Result Of Feedback


None so far (July 2012) – feedback extremely positive.


Contact Details


Martin Myhill  m.r.myhill@ex.ac.uk  


Case Study written July 2012.