6 September 2013 15:12

Engineering students and employers set to benefit from new investment

Construction has begun on a brand new state-of-the-art engineering building at Lancaster University.

The decision to invest and build the new high profile centre of excellence is set against a backdrop of a thriving global engineering industry.

The university’s long established engineering department has grown substantially, in both student and staff numbers and in reputation, in recent years.

General engineering at Lancaster is ranked tenth in the UK in the Complete University Guide and is, routinely, in the top 20 for engineering in other rankings.

In the last five years the department has seen a:

  • 100% increase in the number of undergraduate students studying engineering
  • 200% increase in industry-related expenditure on research
  • 125% increase in the number of research students
  • 90% increase in the number of academic staff
  • 80% increase in UK Government derived expenditure on research every year

The University has supported the engineering department’s significant growth in recent years with the recruitment of 20 new academic staff, most with international experience, to cater for the department’s 440 students.

But the original 1960s’ facilities were out-of-date and, at a practical level, were unable to support any long-term expansion.

The new development will provide additional areas for future growth and recent new specialisms such as nuclear, energy and chemical engineering.

Designed by internationally-renowned architects John McAslan + Partners, and developed by Lancashire-based contractors Eric Wright Construction Ltd, the new centre will be open for business by December 2014.

It will provide a world-class environment with specially designed workshops, teaching laboratories and office areas.

The two-winged development with a central atrium will house mechanical workshops and laboratories on the ground floor, electronics and chemical engineering on the first floor with levels three and four providing academic office space, study areas and meeting zones.

Head of the Engineering Department Professor Malcolm Joyce, who also holds a Personal Chair in nuclear engineering, is keen to point out the new building will have both an internal and external impact.

“We want to establish an engineering education centre in the North West that is a flagship and the new building will benefit all our work including our recent specialisms in nuclear, energy and chemical engineering,” he says.

“First impressions count. The new development will reaffirm our position in the UK. It will ensure we have the highest standard of facilities and it will raise our profile even further as a key provider of engineering education.”

Students, he added, would really benefit from the new inspired working and learning environment kitted out with all the latest, top-of-the-range equipment, workshops and laboratories. Contemporary ‘live labs’, visible from the outside of the building, are a key feature of the new design.

The department will also comprise extensive chemical engineering facilities, hydropower rigs and nuclear laboratories and high quality research facilities for marine renewable energy, chemical engineering, manufacturing, micro/nano systems and terahertz.

The regional engineering industry, which is significant, will also benefit from the new facility.

“There are so many successful engineering businesses in this region, from the West coast of Cumbria to East Lancashire. There are real benefits for them to have a university with a flagship engineering department on the doorstep when it comes to quality research and recruitment.”

Professor Joyce said that engineering was a highly buoyant industry and related businesses were doing well.

“This means our students always have the pick of the jobs,” he explains. “90% of our engineering students are in a professional managerial job six months after graduating and this year more than half our students had a job before the results came out. It’s brilliant to able to study and be confident that not only will you get a job but you will get the job of your choice.”

From a staff perspective the new building will bring everyone closer together to create a better integrated and much more inspiring place to work.

Lancashire-based Contractors Eric Wright Construction Ltd. have been appointed and will start on site once the demolition work is complete in the next few weeks.

The new building is set to achieve the new BREEAM ‘outstanding’ rating to reflect current regulations and industry benchmarks and to raise the bar in terms of building efficiency in line with the University’s sustainability and carbon reduction targets.