The striking state-of-the-art Bristol Business School at the University of the West of England’s (UWE Bristol) Frenchay Campus has revolutionised business and law education to benefit both students and regional businesses. “At UWE Bristol, we teach business differently. A UWE education goes beyond getting industry accreditation,” explained Professor Steve West, President and Vice-Chancellor at UWE Bristol. “The Bristol Business School is a live environment where staff, students and businesses work together with collaboration at its core.”
Last year, Bristol Law School students gained £1m in welfare for people wrongly declared fit-for-work as part of a pro bono project. Students also advised start-ups and technology businesses through UWE Bristol’s Business Clinic, which is based at the Future Space Centre on campus, with plans to diversify into digital marketing, finance and tax advice over the next year. Fostering an entrepreneurial mindset is imperative, so activities such as these enable students to gain relevant work experience by interacting with business owners and professionals, while ensuring the university remains connected to the wider region.
The new Bristol Business School building has been designed to foster more formal and informal interactions between the university and the wider business community, which will have tangible benefits for the regional economy. Professor West continued: “We are harnessing relationships with thousands of businesses across the region, nationally and internationally, helping us to shape our courses so that our students develop the skills that are needed to help the economy thrive.”
Spread over seven storeys and totalling 185,000ft2, the building includes large areas of collaborative space where professional organisations, small businesses and start-ups can mix with staff and students in specially-designed social learning areas.
The ethos of collaboration has been central to the delivery of the Bristol Business School since its inception. ISG, the company entrusted with bringing the new building to fruition within 18 months, worked closely with UWE Bristol using advanced building methodologies to drive efficiencies from construction all the way through to full occupancy. As a result, the project has been delivered to Building Information Modelling (BIM) Level 2 maturity with all the design information shared between project stakeholders to create a computer-based model of the building.
ISG also engaged staff and students in the project’s journey by showcasing a 3D construction simulation at the Campus Development Roadshow and in meetings with the building’s future users. The model enabled ISG to easily answer queries on the design, phasing, programme and transition to ensure all stakeholders were fully abreast of progress and excited about the new facility.
Over the course of the construction phase, the use of value engineering processes through BIM helped ISG to make total cost savings of more than £2m. The omission of structural steelwork to the main lecture theatre and addition of post-tensioned concrete saved almost £500,000 alone. By opting for a more unusual design that used concrete beams instead of columns, the lecture theatre offers more flexibility of space which means it can be used in the horseshoe-shaped configuration known as ‘Harvard style’. The cladding design was also reviewed several times in the atrium to improve efficiencies and save time on the project, while creating impressive bridges and staircases to all floors.
The finished next-generation learning environment comprises two showcase law courts, a city trading room, a 300-seat tiered double-height lecture theatre and two Harvard-style lecture theatres. It also includes a dedicated incubator for UWE Bristol’s Team Entrepreneur course where students earn a degree by collaborating with fellow students to run a business over a three-year period under the guidance of mentors.
The building incorporates technology-enhanced and flexible learning spaces, IT suites, meeting facilities and parking for businesses, an external business engagement space, a central social space and cafe. Some teaching rooms are even enabled to take part in Technology-Enabled Active Learning (TEAL), which enables students to share information interactively. For example, a student can ‘ping’ their work across to the main presentation screen for discussion during class.
“The new Bristol Business School has already achieved landmark building status and exemplifies how UWE does things differently – with collaboration and inclusion two of the overriding design principles of the project,” said Rob Martin, ISG’s Western Regional Managing Director. “Feedback from staff and students using the new building has been excellent. As a Bristol-based contractor, seeing the development and investment in UWE’s Frenchay Campus and across the entire university estate is incredibly positive for our city and the wider region.”
Bristol Business School recently achieved the prestigious European programme accreditation (EPAS), placing it in an elite and internationally-recognised group of modern business schools.