Out of the urban decay and desolation which has blighted the area around Temple Meads, a new university campus is set to rise.
The malaise which has held Bristol back seems finally to have been shrugged off; the ‘city that never builds anything’ is about to embark on one of the largest urban regeneration projects in the UK.
At the centre of the 70 hectare development will be a new £300 million University of Bristol campus, built on the site of the derelict former sorting office site, which will be demolished.
The significance of the moment has not been lost; university vice-chancellor Professor Hugh Brady has called the announcement “historic”, and Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said they have finally “seized the opportunity” to transform the site.
The first phase of the new city centre campus will house a digital innovation hub and a ‘business school of the future’, which is expected to be open by 2021.
The university says the new Temple Quarter Campus will offer unique educational and employment opportunities for its students. New degree programmes in collaboration with industry partners will be developed, which will ensure students are “equipped to create, lead and work successfully in the industries of tomorrow”.
Professor Brady says the initiative is a “dynamic partnership” between the university, industry and the city and will “position Bristol as a global leader in digital and educational innovation”.
Five thousand students will be based at the new campus and a student residential village will be opened on the site to try and relieve some of the pressures felt on Bristol’s already heated housing market.
The vice-chancellor says the housing will be a crucial part of the site providing “high-quality accommodation for our students but also animating the campus and surrounding areas and decompressing the housing pressure in Clifton”.
The Temple Quarter site itself is on the edge of some of the most deprived wards in Bristol; the challenge for the new university campus and the council is to provide opportunities for everyone and not increase the disparity.
“We want to do inclusive growth here,” said Rees. “This is not about having a tech island in the middle of the city run by a university… We are talking explicitly to them about how we reach out to our communities in east Bristol and further afield; to those who are too often left behind by economic developments.”
Included in the development will be a city engagement hub, in a bid to encourage communities to engage with the university.
“We are looking to establish participation activity that hasn’t been there in the past,” says Professor Brady.
“It’s an opportunity to make Bristol University educational resources available to a wider cross section of the population than ever before.”
Back in 2013 the Engine Shed opened as a collaboration between the university and the city council. Since then 72 companies have been supported through the Bristol SETsquared Centre, which have raised £76 million and created 410 jobs.
Building on that success is central to the university plans.
Engine Shed 2 will be established and Rees says the announcement “confirms our place as the UK’s most technologically advanced city-region and one of the world’s leading digital cities”.
It’s a long term view that the business and energy secretary Greg Clark backs: “Our forthcoming Industrial Strategy is committed to creating highly skilled and versatile workforces in all areas of the UK. The development of this exceptional new campus for University of Bristol is a brilliant example of this strategy in action, with government, academia and industry collaborating to deliver future-focused training that will build on Bristol’s growing reputation as a digital and tech cluster.”
Ultimately the development is about future-proofing the university, its graduates and the city of Bristol.
“The challenge is to merge the university, city and its citizens,” says Brady, “over the next 30 to 40 years, the digital and creative economies are set to grow and we must grow with them”.
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