New life for Old College
The vision is to bring new life to Old College, a grade 1 listed building and home of the first University College of Wales and to transform this iconic building into a major cultural and creative centre for Wales.
Our vision took shape in 2014 when our remaining academic departments moved from Old College to the University’s purpose built campus overlooking the town of Aberystwyth.
A joint University and Welsh Government feasibility study that year, evidenced the strategic need for major new University and community town facilities and a unique opportunity to deliver these through the transformation of Old College into a mixed-use facility that would also catalyse social and economic regeneration in a disadvantaged region of the UK.
Thanks to a £850,000 Development grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the University then consulted widely in 2017/19 to develop our vision with the support of a Project Board of University, student, alumni, community, school and youth representatives.
The Board developed plans with the support of a team experienced in the delivery of major heritage projects; architects (Lawrays and Austin Smith Lord), consultants in activity and audience development (Headland) and business planning (Amion).
A major development in design terms included the incorporation of two Georgian villas adjacent to Old College, resulting in exciting new opportunities for enhanced visitor access, hospitality and increased capacity for major events and festivals.
In July 2019, detailed project plans and planning applications were approved for the transformation of Old College into a centre that will attract diverse audiences to enjoy programmes of activities in stunning spaces across 7 floors and 143 rooms, including 10 rooms with capacity ranging from 60 and up to 200 people.
The plans are supported by Welsh Government, Ceredigion County Council and our project partners of National Museum Wales, Hay Festival and National Library of Wales. A robust operating model and business plan is in place with 48 new jobs, 900 training opportunities, 400 annual volunteering opportunities and an annual contribution of £3.55 million to the region.
This project is one of the most ambitious educational, heritage, cultural and community projects in Wales and wholly dependent on external funding.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund has pledged a further £9.7 million towards the 2020/23 construction and project costs, subject to their final approval in December 2019. A matched funding campaign was launched in 2017 with funds targeted from Welsh Government, EU, a fundraising appeal and grants from charitable trusts and foundations. The University is also making a significant contribution to the project.
The fundraising appeal is our largest since the University secured the purchase of Old College in 1872. Charitable donations from our global network of 60,000 alumni, our community and from charitable trusts and foundations are crucial to success.
In summary, our project’s strategic aim is to deliver major educational, cultural and socio-economic outcomes for our students and community whilst fully complementing existing University and local provision. Old College will throw open its doors to enrich lives and stimulate learning across all ages and attract hard to reach and excluded audiences.
Dynamic activities will be programmed in four inter-related zones to spur creativity, innovation and enterprise and symbolise Aberystwyth’s national and international aspirations. All activities will be enhanced by state of the art technology that is sensitively integrated within the building’s inspiring and eclectic high Victorian gothic architecture.