LAST YEAR, THE 50th anniversary of the main move by UCD to Belfield was a time to reflect on the past. Those five decades saw a remarkable transformation in the fabric of the University, and the evolution of our facilities and physical infrastructure continues today. Now, as we emerge from the extraordinary circumstances of the past 18 months, it is time to look to the future. UCD has a vital role to play in shaping this future of challenge and opportunity. Our impact depends on our ability to attract brilliant students, faculty, researchers and staff to a modern campus that actively encourages creativity, curiosity, and physical and mental wellbeing.
Philanthropy is central to UCD’s vision for campus development, which in turn underpins the objectives set out in the UCD Strategy 2020-2024: Rising to the Future. The visionary philanthropist Chuck Feeney, who celebrated his 90th birthday this year, invested abundantly in UCD over three decades. The impact of his support, and that of many other generous supporters and friends, is visible and tangible right across the University. The work of UCD Foundation in securing philanthropic gifts remains critical to UCD’s success as we advance our ambitious plans for a campus fit for 21st-century education and research.
UCD FUTURE CAMPUS
In April, full planning permission was granted for Future Campus. This transformative project reimagines the physical, social and cultural landscape of UCD as a unique environment that fosters creativity, interdisciplinary collaboration and public engagement. Our plans for Future Campus include the UCD Centre for Future Learning and UCD Centre for Creativity, two iconic buildings that incorporate the principles of sustainable and universal design. Landscaping and enabling works for these landmark buildings are underway, with work on the buildings themselves scheduled to begin next summer.
With 33 technology-enabled classrooms of varying sizes and a large lecture theatre that can be reconfigured quickly and easily to facilitate different pedagogical approaches and styles, the Centre for Future Learning will be a vibrant hub for active learning at the heart of the campus. It will bring together students and academics from across the University in a warm and welcoming space that promotes serendipitous interactions, collaboration, and the sharing of knowledge and ideas.
The Centre for Future Learning and the neighbouring Centre for Creativity will be the focal point for UCD’s Engineering and Architecture Precinct. Characterised by an open, transparent design and an abundance of natural light, the Centre for Creativity will be a dynamic ‘living lab’, where ideas are brought to life in studios and maker spaces. “It will be a highly distinctive building defined by dynamism and interaction,” says Professor Hugh Campbell of UCD School of Architecture. “Students will learn by doing and they will learn from each other by virtue of being in this creative space together.”
Future Campus has become an even greater priority for UCD in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will provide the space and flexibility to safely accommodate a growing student population on campus, while the technology infrastructure will also support distance and blended learning. Both the Centre for Creativity and the Centre for Future Learning are expected to be open and occupied in the academic year 2024-2025.
UCD Foundation has secured the largest single philanthropic gift in its history for the Future Campus initiative and is actively seeking additional philanthropic support to advance this important project.
UCD SCIENCE DISTRICT
The Science landscape of UCD has undergone profound change over the past decade. The opening of UCD O’Brien Centre for Science in 2013 was the culmination of Phases I and II of a major investment in UCD College of Science. Now, Phase III – the final phase and the capstone project of this significant development – is well underway. The end result will be the full consolidation of the seven Schools of the College of Science into a cohesive, world-leading Science District. This will place UCD firmly on the map as a global leader in pioneering, multidisciplinary research, a centre of excellence in science education and public engagement, and a hub for innovation in emerging technologies.
The conceptual design stage of Science Phase III is now nearing completion. The final design will be informed by the in-depth consultation that has taken place with faculty and staff, and the desire to soften the boundaries between the scientific disciplines to promote collaboration and knowledge sharing. The planning application has now been submitted.
“It is both exciting and fascinating to see the Science Phase III project grow towards completion,” says Professor Pádraig Dunne, Academic Lead for the development. “I expect that the project will complete the O’Brien Centre for Science in a way that matches the achievements of earlier phases.”
ON TRACK FOR A HEALTHY UCD
Sport and athletics have always been an important part of UCD life. The absence of an athletics track on campus for the past decade has been keenly felt, not only by our elite athletes and the UCD community but by the wider community too. Now, thanks to an exceptional donation to the University in 2018, Belfield boasts an outstanding new athletics track at the heart of the UCD Sports Precinct.
The eight-lane 400m track has been three years in the making, its progress delayed at various times by COVID-19 and the soft Irish weather. This served only to heighten the anticipation and excitement surrounding the official opening of the track in September – fittingly, in the year that also marks the 100th anniversary of UCD Athletics Club.
“The new state-of-the-art running track is a superb amenity at the heart of a healthy UCD campus,” says UCD President, Professor Andrew J Deeks. “It supports our aim to provide a holistic educational experience that values physical and mental wellbeing as well as academic achievement.”
DOWN ON THE FARM
A world away from UCD’s Dublin campuses, in the rich pasturelands of Co. Kildare, lies a unique and vitally important part of the University: UCD Lyons Farm. Occupying 250 hectares of the original Lyons Estate acquired by UCD in 1964, the teaching and research farm is a critical resource for the School of Agriculture and Food Science and the School of Veterinary Medicine. It is also a key factor in the consistently high rankings achieved by UCD’s Veterinary Medicine programme (23rd this year in QS rankings) and Agricultural Science programmes (24th this year in US News & World Report rankings).
The innovative research carried out at Lyons Farm addresses issues of global and national importance, from crop production, nutrition and herd health to climate change and biodiversity. However, the extraordinary depth and breadth of the knowledge base and research activity on the farm belie an infrastructure that largely dates back to the 1970s. An ambitious €25m masterplan is now in place to change the face of Lyons Farm for the 21st century and establish world-class facilities befitting a global centre of excellence. Thanks to generous philanthropic support, the transformation has already begun.
A €2.3m partnership between academia and industry saw the launch of the UCD Lyons Dairy Education and Research Facility in 2016. In 2018, work began on the UCD Lyons Farm Long-term Grazing Platform to develop sustainable systems in grass-based agriculture; the first pastures were sown in 2020.
The next major development will be the opening of the Herd Health Hub and AgTech Innovation Hub in 2022, which will position Lyons Farm as a central hub for research and agricultural innovation in Ireland. These two additions are crucial components of UCD’s One Health strategy, which promotes synergistic multidisciplinary collaboration at the interface between human, animal and ecosystem health. Both the Herd Health Hub and the Innovation Centre will ultimately form part of the broader vision for UCD Lyons Farm Knowledge Centre, which will bring together cutting-edge teaching and research facilities and public engagement spaces within a custom-designed building that will serve as a gateway to the farm.
Reflecting on what all this will mean for students, Professor Alex Evans, Dean of Agriculture and Head of the School of Agriculture and Food Science, says, “We’re very conscious of developing students who can think and communicate, who are confident and resilient. We’re designing our buildings, spaces and opportunities around the student experience, and Lyons Farm is an important part of that.”
It will be wonderful to witness the evolution of Lyons Farm over the coming decades, as more supporters come on board. “We’re really committed to an ambitious vision for the farm,” says Professor Michael Doherty, Dean and Head of the School of Veterinary Medicine. “We have the passion, but we need financial support to get these projects over the line.”
A CULTURE OF PHILANTHROPY
The seeds of giving planted by Chuck Feeney and other donors have flourished and grown to create a strong culture of philanthropy. The generosity of our supporters is woven into the bricks and mortar of the University, and it drives us forward in our work to make the world a better place.