UCD Student Accommodation – Official Opening of Ashfield

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Belfield Campus

23 August 2016

Speech by Minister Damian English, T.D., Minister of State for Housing & Planning 

President, elected representatives, other guests.

I’m glad to be here today to mark this very important launch for UCD and for the surrounding area and community, as we open the new residences and see the university’s strategic vision for on-campus development in the period ahead mapped out in the new masterplan.

It’s perhaps easy to overlook just how important UCD is in economic terms to the wider Dublin area. But it is worth noting that every day some 31,000 students, staff and visitors attend UCD’s Belfield campus. With the on-campus residences now expanded to over 3,000, this means that 28,000 people commute to campus every day.

So Belfield has the same day-time population as Bray, Navan, Ennis or Kilkenny.  This size of population, living and working in such a defined area, really needs to have very clear, and very good urban planning.

The origin of the Belfield campus dates back to the 18th century with the development of a number of estate houses and their associated lands.  In the 1930s the purchase of lands at Belfield provided sports facilities for the university and the President of UCD, Michael Tierney spearheaded a strategic acquisition of lands over the coming decades so that the expanding university could develop this beautiful campus we see today.

The first education buildings for the science faculty were constructed in the 1960s.  This centre has in recent years undergone a massive transformation.  Phases 1 and 2 of the science centre have now been completed, providing facilities for 2,000 students and researchers and I know the President has prioritised the development of Phase 3 in the current campus plan.

As we walked through the Newman Building today President Deeks outlined UCD’s plans to strengthen and consolidate the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.  These academic disciplines provide a stream of evidence-based research, particularly in the areas of societal and public health needs, for policy makers and Government.  As a national institution and a public university, UCD has always contributed to public policy and I welcome the President’s commitment to continuing that role.

I am also encouraged by the University’s ambition to transform the Newman Arts building and the James Joyce Library into a more public space where cultural activities and public exhibitions can take place.  We have seen how the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Lexicon Library has had a transformational impact in terms of creating a place of discovery, education and entertainment for the community.  I know the library staff at UCD were very involved in the planning for the Lexicon and welcome the University’s plans to open up UCD’s cultural resources to the general public.

The wider public also has a stake in the opening of the Ashfield Residences.   The timing of their completion is most welcome as the shortage of housing continues to affect not just students but families.

As Minister Coveney has already outlined, living on campus can bring a lot of benefits for students.

  • By prioritising first years, UCD has recognised that many students leaving home for the first time do not have a social network and providing on-campus residence lets them settle in to university as well as removing anxiety for worried parents.
  • On-campus residence takes pressure off the private rental sector and means that families in particular don’t have to compete with students for much sought-after houses.
  • On-campus residences are generally more affordable to students as they only pay for 38 weeks rather than having to take 12-month leases.   The cost of accommodation on campus compares favourably with the private sector, especially when costs such as light, heat, waste, transport, and high speed wifi are included.  UCD ring fences the rental from residences so that it is channelled back into maintenance and new construction for the students.  UCD on-campus accommodation rates for the academic year range from €5,721 – €7,929 (€10,305 catered), all including utilities.  Ashfield is set at €7,929.
  • On-campus residences are built and maintained to a set high standard.  No grotty bedsits with mould on the ceiling and grubby carpets here!

Looking to the future, it’s heartening to see that the university is already well advanced on planning for the future development of the campus. Good urban planning should always incorporate the ideals of sustainability and the UCD campus is an exemplar of sustainable development.

The University’s focus on sustainability can be seen in the O’Brien Centre for Science, which achieved a BREEAM Excellent design award in sustainability, in the Roebuck Castle Student Residences which are certified to Passivhaus standard, and  here in the new Ashfield Residences which incorporate low-energy design, a significant solar energy installation, rainwater harvesting and features a “green” roof.

I want to wish the university every continued success, to wish returning and new students good luck for the coming academic year and a particular good luck and welcome to the first students to take up residence here in Ashfield. I’m sure it will make a fantastic new home for you, and with these great laundry facilities there’s no excuse for bringing home the bags of washing!

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