24th Jun 2021 in Business

You may have noticed cranes in the sky and great fingers of glass-fronted building stretching high up into the skyline where Royal Avenue meets Donegall Street and York Street in Belfast City Centre.

This iconic building project is part of the most significant regeneration project in Belfast since 1998 and is the most dramatic moment of culture change in University Education in the Greater Belfast Area since the establishment of the Polytechnic in 1973. It is of course the creation of the new Ulster University Belfast Campus.

The new campus will deliver a progressive student experience in a state-of-the art city centre campus, benefitting from innovative learning spaces at the forefront of higher education, here in Belfast.

With the new campus set to begin welcoming staff and students from September (Covid restrictions permitting), the University is lifting the lid on the architecture of the landmark new development and offering a peek inside in the form of the ‘campus by numbers.’

Firstly, the sheer size and scale: the new buildings will enhance the existing Belfast campus by 75,000m2 and will host over 15,000 staff and students relocating from Jordanstown, which is equivalent to the population of Armagh.

Economic and community impact 

It is designed to have impact: an independent study has shown that this project’s overall regeneration means benefits to the NI economy of £1.4billion (OECD), through this significant investment in the aspirations of our young people, the city and beyond.

The Belfast Campus has a ‘University Community Benefit Framework,’ developed jointly with Inner North Belfast and Greater Shankill Neighbourhood Renewal Partnerships. It works with local communities to maximise the social, educational, environmental and economic benefits of our location in the city.

One of the initiatives within the Framework is the ‘Taking Boys Seriously Programme’ which started in Belfast Boys’ Model School in 2012 and sees the University working closely with the school to encourage boys to reach their academic potential. During this time, the percentage of pupils attaining three good A Level grades has risen from 30% to 70% (21% higher than the average from a non-Grammar school male pupil in NI and is 26% higher than those from similar socio-economic backgrounds). The number of pupils who achieve five GCSEs with English and Maths has almost doubled and is 9% higher than in similar schools. In 2018 the AS and A Level results were the best in the history of the school – every student passed every exam. 46 progressed to higher education and of those 46, 40 enrolled at Ulster University.

The Campus is a catalyst for change in the city centre. In terms of jobs and training, the development has supported almost 100 years’ worth opportunities for training, placements and apprenticeships, 4000 weeks of training in the local area and 500 jobs through the supply chain purchases. It is these talented young apprentices and placement students who have laid the foundations and built the university campus of the future in Belfast City Centre.

Construction and facilities 

It is constructed from 650,000 bricks, 31,000 tonnes of concrete, 2,000m2 of Scottish Stone and 95,000 computer floor tiles – laid out end to end these would stretch for 57km22,000m2 glass, which is equivalent in size to 44 basketball courts, will offer staff and students incredible views of the city through 23 different types of glazing on the façade.

606km of data cables will be installed for high speed internet access, which laid end to end would stretch from Donaghadee to Dover. 2,900 doors, which if laid end to end would stretch for 5 miles, will open to 2,731 steps which if climbed twice a week would be equal to climbing Slieve Donard – what a workout. If you would rather take the lift there will be 18 of them going to 120 floors in total and 19 different roof levels for those who enjoy a birds eye view over Belfast.

It will offer students and researchers so many different types of learning and collaboration spaces, connected by an incredible sky bridge:

  • Smaller: 234 spaces for between 12 and 20 people
  • Medium: 57 spaces for between 20-100 people
  • Large: 12 spaces for 100+ people, largest space is 350 seat lecture theatre – equals the passenger capacity of a Boeing 747 jet

It’s a building which is built to last –for at least 300 years and will educate hundreds of thousands of aspiring engineers, business leaders, artists, computer scientists, architects, games designers and so many more. All are welcome to visit when it officially opens, with two floors open to the public, designed to draw in neighbours from the local community and passers by.

Simon Hamilton, Chief Executive, Belfast Chamber of Commerce commented: “It has been a very difficult year for many businesses in Belfast but the new Ulster University campus right in the heart of our city represents a hugely positive development for Belfast and its economy. Not only will the 15,000 students and staff that the University will bring help breathe back into the city centre, helping to sustain and create new jobs in hard hit sectors like retail and hospitality, but it will also help to cement Belfast’s growing status as an innovation and tech hub. Belfast Chamber believes that Belfast has a very bright future and becoming a home to Ulster University’s new campus will provide a big boost in our ongoing regeneration journey.”  

Councillor David Brooks, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee said: “Belfast City Council has ambitious plans for reimagining and regenerating Belfast, and it’s exciting to see this major state-of-the-art investment approaching completion in a historically significant part of the city.

“The new Ulster University building will be a major catalyst for wider regeneration in the area and complements our Future City Centre Programme, including plans for a newly regenerated Inner North West area combining city centre living, tourism, employment and innovation. 

“It also sits alongside our place-making scheme for the adjoining urban space at Cathedral Gardens, which is being brought forward for redevelopment as an important city centre open space. This represents an opportunity for further partnership working with Ulster University to create a truly transformational space in the heart of this culturally vibrant area.”

Professor Paul Bartholomew, Vice-Chancellor at Ulster University commented: “A new chapter is unfolding at Ulster University: within the new Belfast Campus we will be teaching the leaders of tomorrow, developing research that shapes future policy and forging links with community and industry partners that will bring social and economic benefit to not only North Belfast and the City Centre, but the entire region.

“The new teaching, research, innovation and support facilities will connect local people, businesses, academics, staff and students both to each other and to an ever increasing range of future opportunities.

“We are delighted to be delivering a landmark building, a new icon in the Belfast skyline and a vibrant hub, open to the public, which will be part of the cultural fabric of the city. We want the enhanced Belfast campus to promote a creative, innovative, transformative and vibrant environment that will stimulate, inspire and add value to our core activities of teaching and learning, and research and innovation.”

The full list of the campus by numbers:

  • £1.4bn – the project’s overall regeneration impact on the NI economy
  • 650,000 bricks, 31,000 tonnes of concrete and 2,000m2 of Scottish stone
  • 95,000 computer floor tiles – laid out flat this would be 57km
  • 75,000 square metres in size – that’s 75,000 square meters of learning, research and collaboration space in the city centre
  • 22,000m2 glass which is the same size as 44 basketball courts (and 23 different types of glazing are on the facade of the new campus)
  • 15,000 – the number of staff and students that will relocate from Jordanstown – equivalent to the population of Armagh
  • 11,000 Sprinkler heads
  • 2,900 doors, which if laid end to end would stretch for 5 miles
  • 2,731 steps which if climbed twice a week would be equal to climbing Slieve Donard
  • 606km of data cables which laid end to end would stretch from Donaghadee to Dover
  • 300 years – the lifespan of the building
  • 19 different roof levels
  • 18 lifts going to 120 floors in total
  • Learning spaces:

o   Smaller: 234 spaces for between 12 and 20 people

o   Medium: 57 spaces for between 20-100 people

o   Large: 12 spaces for 100+ people, largest space is 350 seat lecture theatre – equals the passenger capacity of a Boeing 747 jet

  • 2 floors will be open to the public, designed to draw in neighbours from the local community and passers by
  • 1 sky bridge, connecting buildings and providing staff and students will a view out over York Street

For more information on the Belfast Campus, please visit our brand new website: ulster.ac.uk/anewchapter/campuses/belfast 

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