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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Learning in luxury

STUDENTS were taken aback as they walked through the doors of their state-of-the-art £41m new college for the first time yesterday. NATALIE CHAPPLES reports.

IT’S a very happy new year for the students and lecturers of Furness College.

The year started as a “voyage of discovery” yesterday as more than 1,000 excited students explored their spacious and contemporary new college.

Just 16 months ago the metal framework began to rise from behind hoardings, and now the four-storey college is open for business in Channelside, Barrow, nine months ahead of schedule.

Amazed learners toured the building, which they described as “airy,” and even “better than some universities”.

Students of various curriculum areas – including business administration, craft engineering, technical engineering, motor vehicle, and access to university – started using the new facilities yesterday.

Other departments are moving in as part of a rolling programme.

The Broadway Malyan-designed building covers 13,000 square metres and is the centrepiece of the £41m campus transformation, being undertaken by main contractor, Eric Wright Construction. For the very first time the complex was buzzing with students, as they arrived in the ground floor reception and meeting space known as “The Street”, which includes the feature staircase.

Briese Wooldridge, 18, and Fern Henderson, 17, of Barrow, are both studying business administration.

Briese said: “It’s brilliant. I like the building because it’s big and there is more room and more facilities. I’m excited about learning in here.”

Fern said: “It’s fantastic and it’s very airy. It’s a more interesting place to study. All the new computers are great.”

From the outset college bosses wanted the building to highlight vocational learning.

Prime positions have been given to professional learning environments as a key feature of the design.

The top specification workshops include the motor vehicle area which has MOT industry standard equipment and machinery.

The hair and beauty department, which has a commercial salon, therapy facilities and spa, is like a cosmopolitan city salon.

There is a spa and dry flotation treatment room among the new facilities.

The hair and beauty students move in next week, and the spa will open to the public at a later date.

Beauty therapy lecturer Isabela Braithwaite, said: “These are fantastic facilities, we have got more space to teach more students, and more of a variety of courses. The students are very excited about moving in here.”

The catering and hospitality students have a 60-seater restaurant and professional kitchens, while there are also advanced engineering labs and construction workshops.

The college also boasts a Terrace Cafe, featuring an outdoor area for when the better weather arrives, with stunning views across Walney Channel.

Declan Swan travels from Seascale to study the Access to University Diploma.

The 21-year-old, who plans to study marine biology at university, said: “They have done an absolutely wonderful job not just for us but for the students of the future.

“It’s a triumph.”

Furness College was one of the last 13 colleges in the country that was successful in securing funding from the then Learning and Skills Council, while hundreds of institutions missed out.

The college received £32m from the former LSC and £3.5m from the then Northwest Regional Development Agency and the University of Cumbria.

The building houses the University Centre, the first dedicated hub for higher education in Furness, and a Furness home for the University of Cumbria.

Nigel Holmes, 38, a BAE senior designer who is studying the BEng in electrical engineering said: “My first impressions are good. It’s a lot more spacious.

“This is a boost for the town. Hopefully it will help more people think of Furness College as the place to come for further and higher education.”

Deputy principal, Mark Nicholson, said: “It’s a voyage of discovery for all our students.

“We are delighted that we have got this far after eight years of planning and building.

“We’ve been exceptionally fortunate.

“It’s very exciting for staff and students. There is a buzz about the place and we are looking for this to continue.

“The whole design process has been around creating a learning buzz for everyone in the area.

“We are really looking forward to the people of Barrow using these facilities.

“This investment is unprecedented in Barrow and we have high expectations in wanting to make sure it is accessible to as many people as possible.”

After the half-term break in February, the construction department will vacate their temporary buildings to move in. The college’s Learning Resource Centre starts being revamped later this month and is to be completed for September.

Students health and social care, early years, IT, sport, arts, and media, who now study in metal clad workshops on the campus, will move into the refurbished LRC from September.

The workshops will be demolished from September to make way for a multi-use games area to be ready in spring next year.

Have your say

It may be iconic but will it still be standing in 50-60 years? I think not, Look at Abbey Road building - over 80 years on and still looks amazing. As for its construction I watched its rise and it IS a metal clad industrial building. Time the design construction industry went back to its roots, stone and mortar!

Posted by Andrew on 27 February 2012 at 19:58

its a really ugly building and it looks out of place why didnt they just up-dat the old building instead of waste in money on building another one what a waste of money

Posted by steve on 12 February 2012 at 19:38

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