12 Dec 2022
A new Land Laboratory Teaching Centre, which will provide an integrated, state-of-art, facility to train students in climate-smart, resilient agriculture and land management, is to be built at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) after the University won £5.8m of funding from The Office for Students (OfS).
Awarded in the OfS’s Capital Funding Competition, the funding will allow the University to develop the new centre in the ground floor of the Cirencester university’s existing Frank Garner lecture block as well as build a new “wet laboratory” extension by 2024/2025.
The new centre, which will replace the University’s existing ageing laboratories, will house the latest equipment and technologies across a combined wet lab and IT-enabled learning environment covering a broad range of disciplines and skills.
RAU Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter McCaffery said: “This award - the maximum amount available to any institution under the OfS scheme - is a tremendous fillip for us that will markedly enhance the delivery of our curriculum, the quality of our students' learning experience, and the development of our research, as well as our ability to recruit students and staff. It also demonstrates the OfS’s confidence in the RAU’s direction of travel.
“These new labs will help to ensure that the Royal Agricultural University plays a crucial role in tackling global challenges like climate change, biodiversity and food security and that the University is able to engage a growing and diverse range of students and practitioners in that mission.
“It will help us to ensure students and learners from all backgrounds and abilities, especially those from disadvantaged communities, can be at the forefront of resolving climate change and the goal of a sustainable world.”
The project will also enable the RAU to build on its success in employability, enterprise, and local partnerships supporting economic growth – through Farm 491 (the leading agri-tech incubation and innovation space in the UK), the successful Catalyst investment, and with other local and regional initiatives.
Peter added: “The new facilities will fully embrace agricultural disciplines as science but also as trades and professions to be proud of – demonstrating world leading techniques and practices.
“Agriculture, farming and land management are technical, skilled occupations. More needs to be done to equip a new generation of young farmers to address the challenges we face and this new centre will offer practical, hands-on experience for all students, bringing subjects to life beyond theoretical concepts via real world applications.”
The University plans to be able to complete the initial phase – the refurbishment of the ground floor of the existing Frank Garner lecture block – between August 2023 and March 2024. Phase 2 of the development – a new build extension to provide separate dirty, wet teaching labs - will require planning permission but the University hopes to be able to complete that in the summer of 2024.
Once construction of the new Teaching Centre is complete, the University’s old wooden lab block will be demolished to create a vibrant “village green” at the centre of the main campus.
Peter concluded: “This really is fantastic news for the RAU. This is our very first capital investment award of this magnitude from the OfS and I am delighted it will provide a step-change in what we offer to our students and will literally open up our campus to the wider community.”