University of East London and Birkbeck open new £33m campus in Stratford

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Chancellor of the University of London, officially opened University Square Stratford on Tuesday 5 November

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Chancellor of the University of London, officially opened University Square Stratford – a £33m state-of-the-art campus in east London – on Tuesday 5 November. More than 300 dignitaries, donors, academics, and leading figures from local businesses, cultural organisations and councils attended the event.

University Square, situated at the heart of Stratford’s cultural quarter, is a unique collaboration between the University of East London (UEL) and Birkbeck. The two distinct universities both aim to widen access and encourage progression into higher education for non-traditional students. The campus offers an alternative model of higher education, with flexible part- and full-time, day and evening study opportunities to meet the growing aspirations of the people of east London.

Professor John Joughin, Vice-Chancellor of UEL, said: “University Square Stratford is truly transformational. It is already encouraging access and progression into higher education and better meeting the growing aspirations of the people of east London, who are now able to enhance their employment prospects by gaining university qualifications and learning new skills. In a sense part of that transformation of London is all around us – quite simply the east of London is becoming the centre of London.”

The Master of Birkbeck, Professor David Latchman CBE, said: “190 years on [since Birkbeck was founded], people, governments and others have accepted the importance of widening participation and lifelong learning. The challenge for Birkbeck is to continue to be innovative, continue to do things in the tradition of George Birkbeck and that is why we started to think a few years ago about coming to east London. It became very clear as soon as we started to think about it that UEL was the key educational institution here and we could do nothing else but collaborate with UEL. We have had a magnificent relationship with them, teaching in their premises until this magnificent new building is open, and now working jointly with that building.”

Students’ perspectives

UEL student Baanji Muteto, from Manor Park in Newham, is studying for a BA Honours in Urban Dance Practice at University Square Stratford, and performed a dance routine with other students at the opening event. He said: “Performing in front of HRH Princess Royal was a massive privilege and a great experience. We performed a dance piece that fuses house dance music and contemporary dance techniques. ”

Birkbeck student Martine King, from Essex, is studying for a Certificate of Higher Education in Legal Methods at University Square Stratford. She said: “The facilities at the new campus are excellent and I am delighted to be among the first group of students to use them. Bringing education to Stratford and east London is so important. I would not have been able to study in central London because it is too far from my home.”

State-of-the-art building

Designed by Make architects and built by contractor VolkerFitzpatrick in association with AWW architects, the five-floor campus comprises 8,600 square metres of flexible teaching and performance space, as well as academic and administrative offices, orientated around a large, light-filled atrium. A range of student support services is on offer, including English language and academic learning support, specialist education advice and guidance, disability support and a student centre and helpdesk.

The building is a prime example of the latest technology and sustainable building design. Its features include more than 700 square metres of solar panels, rooftop habitats to increase biodiversity, three rooftop bat boxes, rainwater harvesting, and a garden at ground level. The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating is excellent – the second highest category.