Debra Humphris, Pro Rector (Education) and Simon Harding-Roots, Imperial's Chief Operations Officer, discuss the new W3 accommodation.
The College recently announced plans to purchase and develop a new hall of residence in North Acton for undergraduate students.
Work on the development, named W3, will begin in May 2013, and is currently scheduled for completion in summer 2015. Debra Humphris, Pro Rector (Education) and Simon Harding-Roots, Imperial’s Chief Operations Officer with responsibility for the College estate, discuss the new accommodation.
Why have we purchased W3?
SHR: Imperial promises all first year students a place in halls and offers a range of room rents and types. We regularly review our accommodation provision to ensure it meets current and future needs. W3 was an excellent opportunity for us to secure this accommodation guarantee in the future – one we felt we couldn’t miss. More than that, its scale allows us to develop a community, supported by excellent facilities. We will have 724 bed spaces, and room for amenities that is double the size of the JCR and SCR combined. This gives us capacity for a gym, bar, and study and communal space.
How long will it take to get to Campus from W3?
SHR: Door to door, it takes slightly over 30 minutes to get to South Kensington. W3 has good transport links, being two minutes from North Acton Tube station.
Why buy W3 when student preferences are for accommodation within 30 minutes of campus?
DH: Ideally all students would be housed as close to campus as possible but our location in an area with some of the world’s most expensive property prices makes this extremely difficult. Over the past three years the College has been searching in Hammersmith, Fulham and Ealing, but this process hasn’t produced any viable options for student accommodation of the right size. The new land in North Acton is as close as we have been able to get on distance from our main campus and it has excellent access to transport hubs.
What about the travel costs?
SHR: The greater distance from South Kensington will be reflected in the rents. W3 will double the number of rooms in our lowest quartile for rents. Based on current costs we expect rooms to be around £146 per week.
Why is W3 needed, given the existence of current, closer accommodation options?
SHR: As we work to secure our first year accommodation guarantee, we face some challenges in our residence portfolio that are outside of our control. These include the fact that a number of our Halls have been used by students for decades and, to ensure they will continue to be properly maintained in the future, they will need substantial investment. The largest of these, Evelyn Gardens, is not actually owned by the College and has a limited lease length with over 30 years remaining – a short time given the millions of pounds of investment a building of its size needs for refurbishment.
Does this mean Evelyn Gardens is going to close?
SHR: We are still in discussions with the landlord and exploring all options for what we will do with Evelyn Gardens. Ideally we would love to extend our lease of Evelyn Gardens to ensure it continues to be part of Imperial’s accommodation offer, however this is out of our hands.
How will the distance affect student experience?
DH: The opening of this development is still two years away, and in that time we will be considering how to ensure it is an attractive, supportive and sociable environment for its future residents. This includes making sure we have a high level of wardening support, complemented by a 24 hour reception and concierge. We’ll also consider how to enhance transport provision between campus and the accommodation, particularly during peak nights for student activities. In these early design stages for the development we will be carefully considering the responses that Imperial College Union is compiling to share with us in March.
More widely, the College will take a broad look at the teaching day and tutoring provision as part of the developing Education and Student Strategy. The needs of students based at W3, and all our campuses, will be considered to ensure they can benefit fully from opportunities available on the South Kensington Campus.
Has the College stopped searching for accommodation options now?
SHR: In line with our accommodation strategy we will continue to explore opportunities for student housing that match students’ preferences as closely as possible. We are pleased to have secured W3 but we will certainly continue investigating all options.
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