Sir William Henry Bragg Building

£96m investment in Physical Sciences and Engineering – Consultation Underway

Last updated on 9 September 2019

Staff, students and members of the public are invited to view the plans for the new £96m investment in Physical Sciences and Engineering at the University.  The online pre-planning consultation runs until Wednesday 16 November.

A public event will also take place on Wednesday 2 November in the Parkinson Building at the University of Leeds.

Located on the north east quarter of campus the new 15,700m2 building will enable the integration of the University disciplines of Engineering, Physics and Astronomy, and Computing along with the provision of critical central teaching and social interaction spaces.

For more information about the project and to leave your feedback visit the Engineering and Physical Sciences page.

Edward Boyle Library

Take a look inside Edward Boyle Library

Last updated on 9 September 2019

The Edward Boyle Library re-opened its doors this term following the partial completion of the building.

The newly refurbished space now offers a modern and inviting environment providing 1000 study spaces and a new Postgraduate Hub on Level 13.

Since re-opening its doors this month the library has welcomed 53,242 users.


Take a look inside…



Find out more about the Edward Boyle Library.

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Institute of transport studies

Wheels in motion for the Institute for Transport Studies

Last updated on 9 September 2019

The £3.9m investment to transform the Institute for Transport Studies is now complete. Staff and students will return to the newly refurbished building by the end of October.

Over the last year, the transformation of the Institute for Transport Studies building has been underway.

The £3.9m investment has involved extensive refurbishment work to upgrade fixtures and fittings, along with the sensitive restoration of unique original rooms and features.

Resulting in an improved learning environment, the investment will enable enhanced interactions between the Institute’s various stakeholders such as students, staff and industry partners. Creating modern open spaces for these interactions will contribute to the Institute’s ambition to further develop as a hub for inter disciplinary learning.

Adrian Smith, Project Manager, Estates Services commented: “The remodelling and refurbishment has transformed the navigation around the building creating new simple accommodation which fits comfortably within the existing terrace buildings. A new extension is connected to the original building with a glazed link which makes a clear distinction between old and new. The building is now more accessible through the installation of lifts, ramps and enlarged doorways.

“The energy efficiency and sustainability of the building will be much improved now through new heating and lighting, improved thermal performance of the roof and basement.

Institute of Transport Studies interior
Professor Richard Batley, Director of ITS, commented: “We are delighted with the results of this re-development, and greatly looking forward to moving back into our old – but much enhanced – home. In combination with this investment in our estate, we have invested time and effort in substantively refreshing both our taught postgraduate portfolio and our research and innovation strategy. Taken together, these various enhancements consolidate the Institute’s position as a world leader in transport-related teaching and research”.

This project is part of the University’s wider £520m investment aimed at creating a world-class campus to support its ambitious plans to drive cutting-edge research and excellent student education.

Find out more about the Institute for Transport Studies project.

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Roger Stevens lecture theatre

New look Lecture Theatre opens its doors

Last updated on 9 September 2019

Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre 8 has undergone an innovative transformation and will open its doors for teaching this week. 

The state-of-the-art refurbishment is part of the wider £2.8m, sector leading redesign of our lecture theatre spaces that’s taken place this summer. The pilot programme encompassed three, tiered lecture theatres in key locations across campus, upgrading teaching space to a new set of standards which seeks to improve collaborative and technologically enabled experiences for staff and students alike.

This exciting redevelopment of space will allow group discussion alongside the use of installed technology, bringing about group work, interaction, communication and recording.

Professor Neil Morris, Director of Digital Learning, said “It is really exciting to see these new spaces come to life – they are truly sector leading innovative learning spaces that combine the best use of space and digital technology to offer a collaborative and interactive learning experience.”

Dr. Lee Edwards, Associate Professor, Communication Studies and PR, School of Media and Communication, held the first teaching session this week in the Roger Stevens lecture theatre and commented  “The interactive technologies, intuitive control panels and touch screen make integrating technology into teaching a more interesting and rewarding experience for everyone. Students can access the VLE at their desks, use their interactive whiteboards to write and share work as a group, and their input can easily be integrated into the teaching process through the dual display system. It means I can create a learning environment that is varied and engaging, using different tools to help students develop and reflect on knowledge in new ways.”

The Roger Stevens lecture theatre is the first to complete, followed by the Dental lecture theatre in Worsley building and Mechanical Engineering lecture theatre B, which are both due for completion at the end of this month.

Over the coming months this pilot will be thoroughly evaluated to gather feedback from teaching staff and students, and usage statistics, to form a view about the value of these rooms for teaching and learning.  The results of this evaluation will help inform the strategic direction for teaching facilities at Leeds.

Find out more about the lecture theatre project.

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University of the Year

University of the Year

Last updated on 9 September 2019

Our £520m campus development plan has been recognised as a key contributor to the University of Leeds being named University of the Year 2017 by The Times and The Sunday Times’ Good University Guide.

A key factor, amongst many, that has contributed to Leeds being the University of the Year is our £520m campus developments programme, which is supporting Leeds’ position as one of the UK’s top higher education institutions.

Through our ambitious programme of capital investment projects, development of open spaces, new gateways, pedestrian routes and more accessible and usable green spaces we are on track to support the University’s strategic aim of being securely placed in the UK’s top ten research universities.

In 2016 a sizeable number of capital project investments along with smaller refurbishment projects will be complete. Two significant investments, the £40m Worsley building refurbishment, which has involved a modernisation of teaching facilities in the School of Medicine and Dentistry and the £24.7m transformation of the Grade II listed Edward Boyle Library, are expected to complete in December and be fully operational at the beginning of 2017.

Moving into 2017 we will see a further completion of large investment projects, including the Leeds University Union building which will offer state-of-the-art facilities on completion of its £16.8m upgrade followed by the School of Chemical and Process Engineering which has received an injection of £38m for the refurbishment of facilities.

Two major new build investments commencing on site in 2017 will be Nexus, a £40m innovation and enterprise centre, offering a gateway to help businesses access the University’s world-class research and the £96m investment in Physical Sciences and Engineering. Following recent approval by University Council this will help to foster a culture of inter-disciplinary working in the development of novel materials to address 21st Century challenges.

These key investment priorities alongside smaller schemes ranging from £90k to £1m will underpin Leeds’ future success.

Read more about the University of the Year story on the University of Leeds website.

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Lecture theatre

Reimagining traditional tiered lecture theatres

Last updated on 9 September 2019

By Neil Morris, Director of Digital Learning, University of Leeds

All universities have large tiered lecture theatres.  They were designed in a time when didactic teaching was the preferred method of teaching and learning in higher education. They serve a purpose of mass education – a ‘one to many’ model where the teacher is the expert and the students are sat in rows absorbing information by writing down everything the teacher says.

Interior view of small Roger Stevens lecture theatre (1974), The Architectural Review (Vol 155, No 923, Jan 1974)

Some will say that large lecture theatres can be used differently, and that you can engage learners in collaboration, interaction, discussion, problem-solving etc.  Indeed, I have said this in the past – but largely through the use of digital technologies such as electronic voting handsets and social media (e.g. Twitter) to augment the physical learning space.  But you can’t overcome the physical constraints of these spaces – the rows of seats all facing forward, the lack of working space, the lack of reliable ubiquitous technology, the lack of audio projection from the audience… the list goes on.

Conclusion: Flipped learning is not possible in traditional large tiered lecture theatres.

So, enter learning spaces 2.0.  A number of universities have re-configured tiered lecture theatres to allow collaborative working – see David Hopkins’ excellent blog on this for examples across the sector.  These are good spaces, and we looked at these when developing plans for our project, but I had particular aspirations to embed digital technology in these spaces to support flipped learning, which hasn’t been done before.

Meet our new collaborative digitally-enabled learning spaces.

The room pictured is in our Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre building which houses 25 tiered lecture theatres, and required Leeds City Council and English Heritage permission to be altered due to its Grade 2* listing. This is one of three rooms we are launching this session – the other two are in Engineering and the Dental School, and have very similar formats.

Let me take you on a tour of the room, its functionality and its intended use.  Firstly, the physical space.  The immediate challenge of re-configuring a tiered lecture theatre is the ‘rake’ – we have converted the floor into a series of levels, with multiple groups of students working on each level (including wheelchair users).  This arrangement maintains the tiered nature of the room, so that all users have good ‘line of sight’ to the front of the room, whilst providing space for groups of seats.  The next challenge is maintaining the occupancy levels for the room – inevitably occupancy is reduced when you re-design these rooms – rows of seats is the most efficient use of space, and any other configuration will reduce space, but we have managed to only lose around 10-30% of seats, which I believe is an acceptable compromise for the benefits we have gained.

The layout of the furniture is similar to this style of rooms at other universities.  Our architects Burwell Deakins designed ‘pods’ where 5 students would sit together around a trapezoid shaped desk, with all seats facing the front and the group.  This arrangement allows the flexibility of students working in a group, but also able to focus on activity at the front of the room.  Each of the desks is equipped with the following: Internet enabled touchscreen hybrid laptop, ‘touch to talk’ desk microphone, built in speaker, spotlight, HDMI input, USB charging and power.

Let’s start with the microphones and speakers.  If you want interaction, collaboration and student input, everyone in the room needs to be able to hear everyone else – so you need microphones at every desk.  They are off by default and you push a button to talk but the person at the front of the room has control over all desk microphones (more on their control panel later).  And remember that Leeds has the most sophisticated lecture capture system in the sector, and it is in full operation in these rooms, so student input is captured when the recording is enabled (this is covered by our audio and video recording policy, and in the student contract).

The touchscreen laptop is fixed by a security cable that is long enough to reach all members of the group, and it has a neat storage compartment at the back of the desk.  Users can login with their university credentials, and it has the normal student desktop image so they can access any of our systems.  It also has DisplayNote installed (more on this later).  So students can look things up, take notes, access resources/activities in the VLE, surf the web, share content with each other and do all the things you would normally do with a laptop.  The person at the front of the room can project from any of the laptops in the room using the AV control panel; in fact they can project two at once, as there is dual projection in all rooms (and this will be captured by the Mediasite lecture capture system as it has multiple video inputs).  So, if students are working on an activity in groups during the session, their work can be displayed to the whole group at a touch of a button, for discussion / questions etc.

New look Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre 8Students can also bring their own devices to these rooms, and hook them up to the AV system, and they can charge their devices by USB or normal plug.  You may be wondering why we went to the hassle and expense of installing a laptop on each desk… the reason is that not all of our students have mobile devices that would work in these rooms, and we wanted a level playing field where digitally-enabled group work is instantly possible for everyone in the room without any technical discussion.  There are only two ways to achieve that: put the equipment in the room or give everyone an identical device… we went with the first option.

So that is the student side: they can sit passively and listen to a presentation from the front and they can work in groups; they have equipment at their fingertips and they have desk space to work.  Didactic or collaborative learning, or most likely a mixture of the two now possible in an aesthetically pleasing, highly designed space.  Now is probably a good point to mention informal learning.  We normally think about our lecture theatres as places that are only used during ‘teaching time’.  However, in doing this project, we have just increased our informal learning space across campus – the rooms will be available to students to use outside of teaching time, so they can work independently or in groups in these spaces, and can use the technology and the working space.

What about the teacher?

Many of you will be screaming ‘what about the teacher?’  ‘How will they use this room?’  ‘How will they cope with the technology?’  So, let’s talk about them. The first thing to say is that this project arose from teachers telling us that there isn’t enough flat-floored flexible teaching space on campus, so this project is a response to that request.  Also note that as a result of our lecture capture project, we have lots of teachers who want to do more flipped learning… they can now ‘see’ (literally) how passive didactic teaching is, and they want to use media capture tools to create digital content for pre-session viewing and to use contact time for active learning.  So we have a large group of people who want these rooms.

From the teachers’ perspective, these rooms are dual purpose; they can still be used perfectly well for didactic delivery – the teacher could come in, load their PowerPoint on the lectern PC, fire up the projector and talk for 50 minutes. However, they also have a range of other options to enrich the learning experience for their students.

The front of the room has a lectern based PC, a control panel, lecture capture camera (fixed on back wall of the room), lecture capture recording light and pause button (see here if you are unfamiliar with lecture capture at Leeds), a visualiser, a blu-ray player, a lapel microphone, a very large height and tilt-adjustable digital whiteboard with SMART software, dual projectors and a presentation wall. There is no whiteboard or blackboard and no whiteboard pens or chalk.

New look Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre 8Let’s start with the digital whiteboard because they are exciting. They are huge (45” – 55”), and they have a large stylus (whiteboard pen sized). They are mounted on an adjustable stand which moves up and down (via remote control) and from fully horizontal to full vertical. You can easily find a comfortable writing position and they are an excellent replacement for the traditional whiteboard. Ok, so they are very large, have an adjustable angle and use a pen… the only benefit so far over the traditional whiteboard is the adjustable angle.  What are the other benefits that outweigh the strong push to keep traditional whiteboard in these rooms?  The teacher is facing the audience whilst writing, the content is captured as video (25fps) by the lecture capture system, the content can be zoomed, the content doesn’t have to be deleted when the board is full, and the software has a massive range of other tools / gadgets.  The default arrangement is that the digital whiteboard will project via one projector, and the room PC will project via the other projector… so you can project your slides (and annotate them via the touchscreen confidence monitor if you wish), and write / draw on the large digital whiteboard simultaneously… sounds just like a traditional lecture theatre doesn’t it?

As an aside, this is an important point in technology enhanced learning change management in Higher Education; change has to be easy and relevant for people to engage with it.  See my recently published toolkit with the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education for more on this.

I promised to return to DisplayNote.  This is a software tool that allows real time collaboration and interaction between users on multiple devices.  DisplayNote is installed in these collaborative rooms, and it will allow teachers to ‘send’ groups of students work to complete (e.g. a diagram to complete) and then get it back to display to the larger group; this tool is for two-way collaboration and will be incredibly useful for group activity in these rooms.

I also promised to return to the AV control panel.  It is a modified Creston panel that includes all the usual tools for selecting inputs, volumes (including microphone volume) etc.  It has been modified to show a plan of all of the ‘pods’ and the touchscreen allows the user to select an individual pod to display their laptop screen or their own device on one (or both) of the in-room projectors.  It also controls the desk-based microphones.


I’m sure you are wondering about staff confidence and competence to make the best use of these digitally-enabled rooms.  This has been planned from the outset of the project, and we have had fantastic support from our Staff and Departmental Development Unit who have run bespoke professional development events for staff in Dentistry, Engineering and across the University, and for all staff booked in to use these rooms, in the run up to their launch. This professional development will now extend to in-room training for prospective users, and in-room support for users (someone will be present at the start of every session for the foreseeable future).

In conclusion

What do the teachers and students think of these new rooms?  Well that is one question I can’t answer – literally as I write the first room is being used for a real teaching session for the first time.  We will be evaluating the project in a variety of ways, including usage, in-room feedback systems, formal module evaluations etc., and the Leeds Institute of Teaching Excellence will be running a formal evaluation project over the coming year.  So watch this space for feedback on the success of this project.  I know the rooms will be extremely popular with students and I suspect that staff will warm to them over the coming year; I predict that in a couple of years they will be fully booked throughout the year and staff will be pushing us for more.

I would like to end with thanks for all colleagues, vendors and contractors for all their support, hard work, imagination and drive to realise this vision.  We are fortunate to have the support of some great partners and a fantastic team of colleagues within the University dedicated to enhance the student experience at Leeds.

These rooms are available for booking through the University’s Timetabling system, so get in touch with your local timetable to book a slot to use it with your students.

Find out more about the lecture theatre project.

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Campus development lecture theatre

Innovative refurbishment of first lecture theatre complete

Last updated on 10 September 2019

Doors will open for teaching today to the new look Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre 8. The Lecture theatre has been transformed over the last few months to create a sector leading and innovative teaching environment.

The pilot refurbishment programme encompassed three, tiered lecture theatres in key locations across campus, upgrading teaching space to a new set of standards which seeks to improve collaborative and technologically enabled experiences for staff and students alike.

This exciting redevelopment of space will allow group discussion alongside the use of installed technology, bringing about group work, interaction, communication and recording.

Find out more about the lecture theatre project.

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Engineering and physical sciences

University of Leeds Council approves £96m investment

Last updated on 10 September 2019

The University of Leeds’ Council has given the seal of approval to the proposed plans to create an integrated campus for Engineering and Physical Sciences on the north eastern part of campus.

The £96m project is set to position the University as a world leading research platform and is the largest, single-project investment ever to have been made on the University campus.

It is proposed that this investment will bring together schools in the Faculty of Engineering, with those in Physical Sciences, involving the relocation of the Schools of Computing and Physics and Astronomy. This will help to foster a culture of inter-disciplinary working in the development of novel materials to address 21st Century challenges in many areas, including energy efficient computing, telecommunications, sustainable magnetic materials, sensors for use in biological systems and extreme or remote environments, pharmaceutical formulations, ‘smart foods’ and medical technologies.

The facility will include first-class laboratory and specialised teaching spaces, enabling cutting-edge research, and outstanding student experience, whilst enhancing the University’s research power and strengthening collaboration with industry.

Dennis Hopper, Director of Facilities Management said “This investment is a substantial part of the University’s £520m campus development plan and will help to secure our ambition to be one of the UK’s top ten research universities.  The development will provide impetus and academic acceleration in our Engineering and Physical Sciences disciplines. 

“It’s also great news for the Leeds City Region, with the investment further strengthening the University’s ability to attract major research funding with a consequential impact on the Leeds City Region economy.”

Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, said: “The University already has a strong, global reputation for its pioneering science and engineering research, but currently some disciplines that are, and should be, working together are spread across campus.

“This investment is about creating a modern, highly flexible space to bring teams and facilities together in a single location to support, stimulate and inspire interdisciplinary approaches to tackling big research questions.”

Latest images


The next stages of the project involve presenting the plans to the Leeds City Council Planning Committee later this year.

Preparatory works have been taking place, including vacating the Estates and Old Mining buildings along with the ancillary buildings such as the Estates workshops.

Estates colleagues have now relocated to a permanent new home in the Facilities Directorate Building, which is located close to Bright Beginnings nursery.  Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies have moved from the Old Mining building to the former School of Geography; which has been transformed to create the new Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies Building, following a £7.6m investment.  The site is expected to be vacant next month following the final move, when the Estates workshops are relocated to the Generating Station Complex.

Following this, a site survey will be conducted with a view to tendering the demolition works contract ahead of a start on site in early 2017. Full project completion is scheduled for 2020.

This news follows last month’s announcement marking Leeds City Council’s approval of Nexus – a £40m innovation and enterprise centre, set to open in 2018.

Find out more about the Centre for Engineering and Physical Sciences.

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