Saturday, September 26, 2015

Swansea University Bay Campus and I

This was the article initially touted to appear in The Waterfront, but was rejected. However, I feel that you guys should have a read of what was written. Enjoy!

Swansea University, Bay Campus, your dream home away from home.  With the opening of the Bay Campus, Swansea University will be the closest campus to the beach, beating out Point Loma Nazarene University in California.

A little background never hurts, does it? The Swansea University Bay Campus expansion is a £450 million investment on a 65 acre stretch of land generously donated by BP.  The university aims to capitalize on the University’s connections with international companies such as BP and Rolls-Royce.  The new science campus will initially house the College of Engineering and School of Management.  The new campus will also be the home of ambitious projects projects such as UK’s first Energy Safety Research Institute, and the Institute of Structural Materials, home to the University Technology Centre for Rolls Royce materials testing.  The campus also allowed an additional intake of students in technology and engineering to address the deficit of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) research in Wales.  The new campus will create significant additional student places principally in Technology and Engineering, addressing a deficiency in STEM research in Wales.

While development work will continue up until 2020, the majority of the works were complete in time for 2015 Freshers.

First impressions

I first heard about the new campus about a month after arriving to the university.  The promotional video released by the uni
to YouTube in January about the new campus was certainly impressive.

The video showcased magnificent buildings and grand halls.  The engine hanging from the ceiling , I think, was a good touch, as it gives the campus a kind of air and space museum vibe to it.

The rising action
As a Year 1 Aerospace Student Representative, in November, some other engineering representatives, Swansea Student Union officials, and I were invited on a tour to the new Campus.  Since it was raining the week before, we were greeted to flooded fields with large pools of water everywhere.  The manager of St. Modwen did her best to assure as that come September all the water would be gone.  Because of the rain, we were only chauffeured around in a minivan around the Campus.

The second trip in February fared a little better, though.  With the sun shining, which is quite rare in Swansea, the wettest city in all of UK, we were allowed more access to the construction site.  The manger led us to a viewing platform overlooking the construction site and I took the below panorama picture.

Bay Campus Panorama
Panorama of the Bay Campus under construction.  Featuring Simon Forster, the then College Representative for engineering

The buildings certainly live up to the hype generated by the video.  When the manager pointed out the balconies at the student residential buildings, I imagined midnight ballads of students professing their love to each other.  However, this was bitterly dashed since the manger of the site mentioned that the balconies were merely a decoration and no students were allowed on due to health and safety regulations, which was understandable.

As the months rolled on, the University published even more photos of the new campus, which fueled my growing excitement.

The two pictures featured below was published on the Swansea University Engineering Facebook page over the summer holiday.

I have bought all my train tickets for the return journey and nervously, eagerly, awaited for the day I returned to the University.  Then came the day; time to meet the new campus face to face.  All the hype was building up to this.  How much of the discussed features discussed in the student-staff meeting would be implemented?  The tension was building the closer I got to the campus.

While the campus buildings looks stunning, the experiencing wasn’t what I expected.  I felt like living in a “beta-testing campus” where half of the features aren’t completed yet.  None of the shops were ready and there wasn’t a cash point (ATM machine).

In addition, in the library, I spotted a ceiling tile being pushed to one side with the wiring exposed. The onsite Tesco is also closed till October.

That’s not the end of it.  A student I met on Fresher’s Saturday at The Core, a restaurant at Bay Campus, told me that his building Llywelyn Fawr was not completed and he was temporarily placed at the Student Village for a week.  This isn’t good, but luckily he wasn’t coming from far so his mom could help him move his stuffs over.  Imagine an international student arriving to an unfinished building.  This wouldn’t make a good impression on the student.

On the other hand, the lecture rooms looks impressive and modern and the design of the campus is great.

Feedback from other students:
One student said the University library was ‘too small’ and expressed his concern of how it would cope with the influx of students.  Another student expressed his frustration with the bus service.  “The buses are quite infrequent, though, and often a large number of people builds up at the bus stop so not all of them can get on one bus, which means they are waiting a long time for the next one.”  The same student went on to say “The buildings are spaced out so it feels massive. The food in 'The Core' is excellent, good staff, and a nice place to eat.”

A close friend told me, "Library design is very professional interior design, but it's not as functional as it should be because the single seat chairs take too much space in the reading idea."

Another student has this to say: “The campus is very nice, I love the concept it's built around and we are so close to the beach makes it even more amazing!  I just wish they opened up shops a bit faster."

The feedbacks were fairly consistent.  While they all found one or two aspects of the campus to be lacking, when taken as a whole most agreed that the new campus is great.

The new Bay Campus provides “future proofing” and allows Swansea to provide quality education to the much needed field of engineering.  Swansea University is certainly making the right waves at the Bay Campus.

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