University of London Estate
Our five-year strategy has a core aim
To enrich our academic work in the pursuit of excellence in education, research and knowledge exchange through collaboration with our federation members, developing academic programmes, networks and partnerships that further our federation’s goals across London, the UK and internationally.
What role does the Estate Strategy play in helping us achieve the strategic objectives?
The Estate Strategy is core to our ambition to mobilise our physical estate to support our academic functions and realise its commercial value for the benefit of the University of London federation.
It is also the key driver in delivering a world class Estate, which is fundamental to delivering excellent student and stakeholder experience in the centre of the biggest global city – London.
Our green spaces
Gordon Square was developed by Thomas Cubitt in the 1820s, alongside neighbouring Tavistock Square.
The original planting and layout of the square was personally designed and supervised by John Russell, the sixth Duke of Bedford, who named it after Lady Georgiana Gordon, his second wife.
Gordon Square is often considered the centre of the infamous Bloomsbury Group, the set of English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists.
The Bloomsbury Group’s ‘Thursday evenings’ began at 46 Gordon Square, where friends including Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, David Garnett, Duncan Grant, John Maynard Keynes, Roger Fry and Saxon Sidney-Turner would join Virginia and Vanessa Stephen at their home for recitals and conversations.
After marrying Clive and Vanessa Bell lived at number 46 until 1917, when economist John Maynard Keynes moved in.
Writer and biographer Lytton Strachey lived at number 51 from 1909-24, while his brother James lived at number 41 from 1919-56, with his wife Alix.
Built between 1829 and 1847 Woburn Square was designed by Thomas Cubit, who also worked on the east front of Buckingham Palace and Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s Isle of Wight retreat.
The Square was installed to improve the pre-existing swamp land, with an original construction of 41 houses. Built on the boundary between the parishes of St. Pancras and Holborn, the boundary marker stones are still visible today.
While the smallest of all the Bloomsbury Squares, Woburn Square was originally much longer, extending towards Russell Square. However, the church on the site was demolished in the late 1960s to make way for the Institute of Education building, and an additional extension of SOAS in 1974 further reduced the size of the square. Both extensions were designed by Sir Denys Lasdun, who was also the architect of the Royal National Theatre on the South Bank.
In the Garden is displayed ‘The Green Man’, sculpted by Lydia Kapinska (1999) inspired by The Waves the Bloomsbury Group’s Virginia Woolf. The sculpture’s plaque reads:
“My roots go down to the depths of the world, through earth dry brick, and damp earth, through veins of lead and silver. I am all fibre.
I am green as a yew tree in the shade of the hedge. My hair is made of leaves. I am rooted to the middle of the earth. My body is a stalk. I press the stalk.
The roots make a skeleton on the ground, with dead leaves heaped in the angles.”
The Sunken Gardens
The gardens were bought by the University of London in 1951, to act as a private garden. The entrance is on Malet Street and has public opening hours.
Prior to being bought by the University the quiet site was formerly the rear gardens of Nos. 2 – 20 Gower Street, a terrace built around 1780 as part of the Bedford Estate. Owners of houses on the street included Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, pioneer of women’s suffrage and Lady Ottoline Morrell, literary hostess and patron of the arts.
The gardens originally had wrought-iron railing stubs on the walls, to keep access exclusive to the residents. However, the original railings were removed during WWII to assist the war effort. However, there are rumours the materials never were transformed into the weapons they were intended to be. Some say the drive for those in England to produce scrap iron may have been a morale booster, as many of the materials were simply discarded in the Thames.
The southern end of the square is dominated by the Senate House.
Birkbeck, University of London and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) are located here. To the southwest is Malet Street and to the southeast is Russell Square.
The square is the site of a weekly farmers' market, held on a Thursday.
The department ensures our Estate is maintained and operational 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year through a dedicated team of cleaning, maintenance, security, front of house and logistics operatives.
The team focus on:
- cleaning, securing and maintaining the University Estate, Intercollegiate Halls of Residence, University green spaces and the public realm.
- our teams of skilled engineers and maintenance technicians deliver a comprehensive responsive and planned preventative maintenance service.
- providing logistical support for the University through porterage services.
- managing the print, post and document services for the University.
- providing a dedicated Helpdesk service to all users and occupiers of the University Estate.
- The team manage the delivery of 9 ancillary Facilities Management support contracts i.e., pest control, window cleaning, waste, feminine hygiene etc.
- our Building Services team are responsible for all Statutory and Mandatory activity linked to building services engineering.
The Residential Services team oversees the operation of our seven Intercollegiate Halls of Residences that provide approximately 3,600 bed spaces to students attending one of the 17 Higher Education federation members.
Our functions include:
- Supporting Member Institutions to meet their student’s housing needs through accommodation in our Intercollegiate Halls.
- delivering a professional approach to student accommodation management, from initial application to arrival and throughout the Academic Year to enhance the student experience.
- providing an unrivalled Residential Life programme supported by resident Wardens and Resident Advisors and adopting an approach to Student Health and Wellbeing that recognises the need for helping develop and shape our resident’s wellbeing.
- managing the largest student housing service in London.
- hosting a property platform of rooms, flats and houses offered by private landlords on our website.
The Sustainability department is responsible for improving the sustainable performance of the University and leading on the delivery of the University’s strategic aim to ‘build on cutting edge sustainability practices, working towards our zero operational carbon target.’
Through the management of four key sustainable delivery areas of 'Carbon Emissions', 'Resources', 'Nature', and 'Knowledge/Engagement' the team works collaboratively across all levels of the University to promote awareness of UoL’s sustainability goals and ensure statutory requirements and best practice are incorporated into projects, activities and management decision making.
The team are currently focused on a number of sustainability initiatives across the estate, including:
- Embedding sustainable specifications into our capital works, retrofit and maintenance projects
- Improving biodiversity (including for our resident bees that live at the top of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies building!)
- Stakeholder engagement projects to increase recycling rates
- Operating a zero to landfill policy for the waste that we are unable to recycle
- Collaborating with federation member universities on place-based solutions
- Monitoring and reporting on our environmental performance and compliance obligations
- Recruiting and training Sustainability Champions across both our staff and student cohorts