Checking in on the Centre for Student Life

The Centre for Student Life
Construction on the new Centre for Student Life building was initially set to finish in 2020. Credit: Jack Robert Stacey
The Centre for Student Life is hard to miss, whether you’re negotiating building works or just trying to study in Starbucks.

By Katherine Wheeler | Comment Editor

The building has been under construction since 2018 with promises of completion by mid 2020. At its inception it was touted as providing a whole new boost to the student experience, a beautiful new extension to an already stellar Student’s Union but at present looks less than ready to open…

I was due to tour the Centre a few days ago, to see what it had to offer and possibly sing its praises, however, when I walked down to see it, a large building site sat in its place. On the outside, not much had changed since I left for Cardiff in the summer and access had remained pretty much the same if not worse. Construction has posed a significant challenge to pedestrians on Park Place and accessibility is particularly poor for the visually impaired and those with restricted mobility. It has also meant that access to the Student Union’s third floor has been restricted and to enter via the front requires climbing several flights of stairs and passing some seriously ear splitting drills.

The Student Experience

Construction around the campus has been part and parcel of the student experience since the early 2010s with the construction of Talybont Gate and the Postgraduate Teaching Centre. For the most part, new building construction have taken place on the outskirts of the city centre, though projects that were promised for 2020 are arriving too late for students to properly enjoy them. From my own experience, it’s rare to find a student who hasn’t been driven out of Study Café by the sound of drills and many of my second year friends have never set foot in the SU.

So, should constant construction, noise disruption and accessibility problems be a normal part of the student experience? Second, third and fourth year students have faced both worldwide disruption and distraction on campus. In the coming year, making up for lost time could be both expensive and emotionally exhausting with those who missed out on a typical first year spending money and time having the fun they never got to have. It will be a comfort to many that the University are investing in better mental wellbeing support along with the new builds, though how much of the £600m invested will go towards that is yet to be seen.

A Second Chance for Returners: Defying Construction

Student’s Union President, Hannah Doe, promised in her manifesto that money would go towards ensuring a spectacular Freshers experience for those who missed out last year. If you head over to the Student’s Union website, you’ll see ‘Returners’ exclusive events such as karaoke and dance, even some Bingo. These events are marketed towards those who missed out on a typical Freshers last year though first year students are still welcome to join. It looks doubtful that Fresher’s Week events will be hosted in the Centre for Student Life in future.

It is for students this year to decide whether the Centre for Student Life lives up to expectations but the promise of new rooms and spaces to book will be exciting to societies. The ‘550 seat auditorium’ will be of particular interest to societies hosting guest speakers and may entice bigger names to campus. Additional study spaces will be a relief to those currently wrestling with library booking services with common rooms and sofas part of the proposed design. On top of that, proposed ‘quiet contemplation spaces’ are being created as part of the new wellbeing investment though after the noise of a building site, it just seems like one last irony.

Katherine Wheeler Comment

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