We're losing 6 Canary Wharfs

6th June 2008 at 01:00
That's the amount of floor space that will disappear in colleges under pound;5bn rebuilding programme

That's the amount of floor space that will disappear in colleges under pound;5bn rebuilding programme

Colleges are set to lose the equivalent of six Canary Wharf towers in space under the further education rebuilding programme.

The pound;5 billion project - now more than half complete - will result in the loss of 700,000 square metres' floor space over the next eight years. One Canada Square - the UK's tallest building - has 115,000 square metres.

Lecturers say that the new buildings are leading to a loss of staffroom space and a rise in "hot desking", as corporate-style floor plans are introduced to education.

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) calculates that the new buildings have 20 to 35 per cent less floor space. Colleges do not need so much room because students receive less face-to-face teaching and increasingly rely on technology.

But the University and College Union is calling for more consideration of staff in the building programme and greater involvement of lecturers to make sure the new buildings are suitable.

Roger Kline, the union's head of equality and employment rights, said: "It's a widespread concern, but one that is near the bottom of principals' priorities. What sort of room does the principal work in? Is he in an open plan office? Why not? For good reasons: because he needs somewhere to talk confidentially. But so do staff."

Mr Kline said colleges often had to sell off parts of prime, city-centre sites to raise the cash for building programmes.

At Bradford College, managers compared the building plans with the situation at the UK head quarters of Hewlett-Packard, the computer firm.

Steve Wilkinson, president of the Bradford UCU branch, said 76 staff were being forced into a staffroom designed for only 44 people in the first of the college's new buildings. The college has almost halved in size from 9,900 square metres to 5,500.

Over at Hewlett-Packard, they have 4,000 staff using a space suitable for 1,600. But there is a big difference, he said: "In Hewlett-Packard, they're mostly on the road with clients. It's a different ball game. You can't do that in education. We've got to have somewhere we can talk and work in private."

A Bradford College spokeswoman said the space available in the new buildings was designed to meet normal standards in FE.

Lecturers in sport, construction and engineering were involved in the design of their teaching areas, she said, and the college hoped to have a desk for every full-time staff member, with part-timers sharing.

"The college is investing heavily in the project to ensure staff and students have access to the first-class resources they need to make their time here a success," she said.

The LSC said that older further education buildings were "outdated and inflexible" and would be radically improved by the renovation.

Phil Head, the LSC's director of infrastructure and property services, said: "The capital programme is transforming the FE estate by providing space that creates a better learning environment, with bright, flexible accommodation and social areas that are appropriate for current needs and can be altered as demand changes.

"These major capital plans are developed by colleges in consultation with staff, taking into account their education and administrative needs, and resulting in world-class buildings that will meet the demands of students today and in the future."

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