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Education Space


The New Museums Site redevelopment started 8 years ago and has almost reached the end of the second phase which includes the Student Services Centre, the first phase being the David Attenborough Building.  Find out about the next phase here.

The Student Services Centre, or the North Range of Buildings as it was known in construction, is a project which relocates several student support functions into a consolidated location whilst replacing the examination hall, which also provides flexible seminar and multiuse space outside of the exams season, a refurbished 215 seat lecture theatre and basement cycle parking spaces for the wider NMS.

The accommodation is located in a combination of new build and refurbished spaces. The existing Examination Halls have been replaced with a new build Examination Hall, with three floors of flexible accommodation above. The project also includes the refurbishment of three listed buildings:

  • Arts School
  • Old Cavendish Building (ground floor only)
  • Rayleigh Wing (ground floor only)

The project includes a new link from Bene’t Street Yard through the Old Cavendish Building into a new Court 3, which greatly improves access into the site and which will form the main gateway into the NMS from the medieval core of the city centre to the north. Finally, landscaping has resulted in the formation of three distinct, but connected spaces:

  • Landscaping of Bene’t Street Yard
  • Partial forming of Court 3
  • Partial forming of the northern edge of Court 2

The project was 5 years in construction due to the logistics of the city centre site and the challenges the project team had to overcome. The first challenge was being able to access the site where part of the Old Cavendish Building was demolished to create access into the New Museums Site.  Following access to the site the next set of challenges included:

  • Demolition of both the end of Austin Building and the old Exams Hall. During these works the remains of a 12th century Augustinian Friary was discovered, prompting a four month archaeological dig.  Amongst the findings were 38 skeletons. Read more about the dig here.
  • Getting the crane into site, a 4am start with a gap of 3mm through the Old Cavendish breakthrough.
  • Working on a live site with users all around the site, both university staff and students as well and commercial premises. Weekly meetings were held with those on and off the site to ensure all parties were aware of the upcoming works and possible disruption they could have. Mitigation measures for disruption were also agreed at these meetings.
  • Planning conditions. The planning process was delayed as agreement was reached on the demolition of the old Examination Hall. It was finally agreed that the old portico from the original Exams Hall was retained.  It was dismantled brick by brick, cleaned and stored off-site and has now been restored almost in the same place.  The new Exams hall is the University’s first electronic examination space which can also used flexibly for meetings and conferences.
  • Upstairs, a huge painting was hanging on a wall above the staircase.  The owners could not be found so after 4 weeks of scaffolding and careful rolling of the painting, it was given to the Fitzwilliam Museum who later had the painting valued at over £1 million.
  • The new building is naturally ventilated and controlled by BMS (Building Maintenance System), which can be overridden to suit users’ needs.

The project brings together eight student services across the whole space with a mix of open plan office space with cellular offices and breakout spaces. There is a Changing Places facility on the ground floor and with the vertical link between the new building and the Arts School, the whole Student Services Centre is fully accessible.  There is a green and brown roof on the building to create a habitat for bees, birds and bats.  The brown roof has been created from leftover timber and all the roof tiles from the Art School as part of the biodiversity and sustainability of the site.

In the old/refurbished parts of the new Student Services Centre (some of which are Grade 2 Listed), spaces have been restored, repaired and new AV, lighting and telecoms installed.  Lecture Theatre A benching was cleaned with water and mechanical blinds have been discreetly fitted to the glass vaulted ceiling. In the Old Cavendish part the space has been stripped back to the original lab where famous discoveries were made.  This took 5 years, due to the removal of mercury, lead paint, radiation and asbestos.

External works currently being carried out by the contractor, Kier Eastern, are due to be completed in June 2019.  However, the buildings were handed over on 27th February 2019. Following a 4 week fit out period of furniture, AV and ICT, the student services units started their decant to their new offices at the end of March 2019. From the start of the Easter term 2019 the Student Services Centre is now fully operational with an official opening by the Vice Chancellor on 14 May 2019.

(Photography by Alison Wallis)