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The Second Symposium on Social Learning Space: Redesigning Universities

This Symposium, jointly hosted by ASKe and The Reinvention Centre in conjunction with the Higher Education Academy, took place at The University of Warwick on 20 March 2007. It followed on from the highly successful First Symposium on Social Learning Space, which took place at Oxford Brookes University in January 2006.

This year’s theme was ‘Design for Learning: Learning from Experience’. Since all CETLs received an element of capital funding, and many CETLs used these funds for new and diverse developments, the aim of the Symposium was to share experience of creating social learning spaces within universities by pooling insights, discussing problems, and disseminating findings.

The (PDF Document) programme for the day was varied and involving, comprising a mixture of keynote speakers, interactive presentations and a panel session. The Symposium attracted some 90 delegates from universities across the UK.

Colin Gilmore-Merchant of SMC Alsop Architects opened the day with his keynote presentation. Alsop Architects have been responsible for a number of innovative and exciting projects involving a wide range of building types, and they have a track record of creating distinctive public buildings. Peckham Library, the winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2000, is one example of a building that has had a stimulating impact on the community as well as highlighting Alsop’s commitment to sustainable design. Other educational buildings designed by Alsop include Goldsmith College of Art and Design and a school nursery for Stonebridge Housing Action Trust.

There followed two sets of (PDF Document) parallel sessions - one before and one after lunch. The sessions took the form of 45-minute interactive workshops in which the workshop leaders introduced their social learning spaces and then encouraged active participation through discussion and activities. The sessions were wide-ranging, covering technology and IT, design and evaluation of spaces, student engagement, interdisciplinary education, and internet café culture.


All delegates came together again for a panel session (chaired by ASKe Deputy Director Jude Carroll) followed by a second keynote presentation by Roger Whiteman of RMJM Architects (the company responsible for the ongoing campus redevelopment at Oxford Brookes University). Roger’s lively presentation focused on how the campus redevelopment will help fulfil Brookes’ ambition to become one of the top universities in the UK. He demonstrated the different options that RMJM have proposed for redeveloping the various Brookes sites, and took us through the planning and design process.

The event concluded with a summary overview from Professor Georgia Butina-Watson, Head of the Department of Planning at Oxford Brookes, who neatly wove the key themes arising during the day into a coherent whole.