Flinders University is undergoing a transformation across campus that will see dramatic changes and developments occur throughout the year. These include the Plaza Redevelopment, the Student Hub and the Tonsley developments and will affect every student and staff member of Flinders University.
Early plans for the Plaza Redevelopment and Student Hub Project began in 2013 in liaison with the Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and the University Council. Influenced by the facilities offered elsewhere at Australian universities, the project also sought out the opinions of the student body through the ‘Your Hub, Your Say’ student engagement campaign. Flinders students reported a desire for healthy and affordable food and beverage options, improved spaces to learn, socialise and relax, as well as better student services.
There appears to be a trend of hubs following the development of The University of Adelaide’s student hub: “The emergence of student hubs is both an international and national trend, recognising the changing needs of students and responding with modern facilities to suit those needs,” says Shane McGregor, the university’s Senior Vice-President whose responsibilities include infrastructure planning.
Flinders University is forking out $30 million dollars for the student hub which is expected to be open by the start of the 2016 academic year to coincide with the university’s 50th anniversary. Older spaces in the Union, Library and Humanities will also be modernised on top of developing a professional services building.
One of the integral aims of the developments is to encourage students to socialise and give them more reasons to stay on campus. The plaza redevelopment and student hub changes include facilities such as open learning areas, student lockers, and a student kitchen with microwaves and sandwich presses. The bar will be located on the first floor, at the southern end of the new hub and run across the front of the existing Union Building. It is expected to have a modern, contemporary vibe with a view of the lake, campus and ocean from the balcony. It will provide front bar style food and a pool table (possibly a foosball table in the student lounge). The bar will only be able to host small live performances so larger performances will be held at the Plaza and utilise the big screen. The big screen will also be used for community activities, events and twilight movies. Alcohol will be available at Plaza events though the liquor license will not extend beyond the bar outside of special occasions. As such, on the average day, students and staff will only be permitted to drink at the bar and not the Plaza.
In addition to the bar, there will be a food court (an improved Refectory), function centre and the provision of student services. The hub will offer a range of foods through Wholefoods, a mall café, restaurant, student bar and food vans. Interestingly, while Wholefoods and other food and beverage will be provided through Flinders One, most food and beverage will be provided by “independent operators” according to Shane McGregor. Flinders One will continue to provide health and fitness facilities however it will be less present on campus in terms of hospitality. It is public knowledge that redundancies have already been made. The General Manager of Flinders One, Andrew Nairn says, “Following discussions with the University, Flinders One is focusing on the delivery of more student facing food & beverage outlets, hence a greater focus on cafes and convenience. We will remain a considerable operator of cafes on campus but have less of a presence in the Student Hub. By focusing on cafes, Flinders One has the opportunity to restructure and become more efficient. This efficiency will allow us to far better reinvest back into student services. Flinders One is still working on a workforce plan.” Empire Times will be following up on the extent to which the Student Hub developments have impacted employees of Flinders One next year.
The redeveloped model for the Plaza will be spacious enough for students to socialise, congregate, protest, hold stalls, and various other student events. Currently, there are no plans that see a bank available to students since NAB closed this year. The Flinders Post Office will offer an ATM and there is a possibility of an additional NAB ATM. Currently, the Post Office offers free cash withdrawal through Eftpos. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any ATMs available to students with no withdrawal fee though Shane McGregor says they are “looking at other options.” Toilets will be accessible where facilities are open after hours and Universal Access toilets will be available in numerous locations.
There will be super speedy WIFI campus-wide and lockers available, some with electronic recharging devices. 24-hour access to computers will continue and there will be more computers available in the Library and in Union Building Hub spaces. Flinders University is boasting 2200 access points across campus and a download speed of 1GB/s. The Library will remain a four level building and the major refurbishments occurring on Level 0 (Plaza level) will also affect Unibooks.
Flinders’ Plaza Redevelopment Art Advisory Panel has been established to identify and help harness art-related opportunities in the newly developed precinct. With student and staff representation from across the University, including Flinders University Art Museum & City Gallery; Flinders University Student Association (FUSA); Yunggorendi First Nations Centre; Flinders Asia Centre; School of Education; Law School; Department of Screen and Media; The Library; as well as Buildings and Property and Architects, Woods Bagot. The panel is in charge of consulting about art, murals and outside installations and they will work together to see student art, integrated art and commissioned works be displayed around campus.
Students and their study are the main priorities during the developments. As such, in order to minimise the impact the developments will have, major work has been timed to be outside of semester times. There may be “unavoidable disruption” during the project says Shane McGregor, however “we are committed to a strong communication plan to make sure everyone is well informed and disruptions are minimal.” Signage and other forms of communication will keep students informed about orientation to and from different locations during the developments. The construction period will see the temporary erection of food and beverage ‘laneways’ to provide options for students and staff.
Shane McGregor says that the most exciting thing about the student hub is that it is “a radical transformation of a 50 year old space, into a dynamic, vibrant campus heart as well as the opportunity to provide improved and more versatile spaces, better food and beverage, and free, secure and reliable access to one of the fastest WIFI networks in the word.” While this project will undoubtedly prove disruptive to the study of students and work of staff over the course of the next year, if everything goes to plan, the new student hub and plaza will benefit both staff and students of Flinders University for years to come. Feedback from everyone throughout this process will be necessary to reflect the needs and concerns of the student body.
To get a visual idea of how the new Hub and Plaza will look, go to flindersfuturefocus.flinders.edu.au
Words by Jess Nicole