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£24m Learning Commons opens its doors

26 Sep 2012

The Alan Gilbert Learning Commons – named after the University’s inaugural President and Vice-Chancellor, who first championed the concept – opened on October 1, at The University of Manchester.

Learning Commons

The £24m Learning Commons has been designed to give students a focal point for learning, offering a stimulating and comfortable 24/7 environment for study. 

The world-class 21st century study space boasts more than 1000 flexible study spaces and an inspiring range of equipment and furnishings for individual and group study.

There are 400 PCs, laptop charging lockers, 30 bookable group study rooms, Skype area and media screens for presentation and group work. The wifi available throughout the building extends to the space outside and to the ground floor café, which is open to the public.

Managed by the University Library, a dedicated team of staff provide guidance and support. University Librarian Jan Wilkinson said: “The opening of the Learning Commons is a fantastic example of what can be achieved through collaborative work across the University.  The facilities that have been created for our students are undoubtedly amongst the best in the UK; exactly as Alan Gilbert wanted them to be. He would be delighted to see fulfilled this aspect of his aspirations for Manchester students.”

Although managed by the Library, this state-of-the-art facility does not have any books inside it. Jan Wilkinson said: “We have thousands of books on the shelves in the University Library close by. This new building is an extension of existing facilities, catering very much for students of the 21st century who are looking for the best possible learning environment. The building has been kitted out with the equipment and technology to support that.”

Professor Alan Gilbert, who recommended the building of a learning commons, sadly died just after his retirement in 2010. The new building is a tribute to his vision.

The principal design objective has been to minimise the building's emissions of CO2, which will be achieved by reducing the building's needs for energy.

Heat loss will be limited by high thermal insulation performance, natural ventilation is used where possible, heat recovery systems limit the amount of heating and cooling of fresh air, daylight is maximised and energy efficient appliances and systems will be used. There are also photovoltaic tiles on the roof, whilst solar thermal systems provide hot water for the café.

To provide inspiration for everybody studying and working in the Learning Commons, its fabric and facilities celebrate The University of Manchester’s rich heritage of achievement and innovation. Students have created designs reflective of the Manchester experience, which are printed onto the walls, doors and glass panelling of the learning spaces for everyone to see.

The Learning Commons concept was first developed in the US and Australia to describe a building where students can get together and learn, either on an individual basis or by working collaboratively in groups. 

The Alan Gilbert Learning Commons has been developed in consultation with representatives from the Students Union to make sure that users needs have been fully taken into account.