Development of Rusham Park Raises Questions of Sustainability at the University

Izzi Vaughan | Editor in Chief

Contractors Balfour Beatty were announced on the 31st March as the preferred bidder for the development of Rusham Park as a new student village for Royal Holloway, as well as day to day management of George Eliot Hall. The land, next to the Sport’s Centre, is to be developed into ‘affordable but high-quality living, social and amenity spaces for its growing student population’ (RHUL). The project includes net-zero carbon targets and energy efficient systems.

Balfour Beatty’s UK Construction Services will be constructing the new 1,400 student rooms at Rusham Park starting in 2021, expected to be completed in 2024. In 2017, the university made the decision to outsource the day to day running of George Eliot Hall. Balfour Beatty is also now the preferred bidder for this project. Their management will start early next year including housekeeping, maintenance and waste disposal.

Liz Schafer, who is currently teaching on the university’s first Carbon Literacy Training (CLT) Programme, commented ‘Rusham offers a huge opportunity for RHUL to go heaps and heaps greener and I think their proposals really need robust scrutinising in terms of ambitious sustainability not just token sustainability, ticking a few boxes’. The move also reflects the ongoing marketisation of higher education, with funds prioritised to a project with great potential profit margins for the university, without a concern for the much needed funds for student wellbeing services and the ongoing UCU fight for fair and equal pay.

The university’s first CLT course is led by Sigrun Wagner and ‘aims to increase knowledge and to encourage commitment to constructive action in students who need to explore the basics to achieve a working level of ‘literacy’ in relation to Carbon Dioxide plus other relevant gases’. Currently 18,000 people have completed Carbon Literacy Training after the BBC invested in the programme in 2015. Royal Holloway’s programme has the capacity for 15 students, currently full. Anyone who completes the course can go on to train others, with the hopes that the knowledge will spread awareness.

The university was recently awarded 34/100 in their carbon targets, meaning ‘needs improvement’. Therefore, the development of Rusham Park must be completed with sustainability and the wellbeing of students at its heart. Students Organising for Sustainability, who have done a lot of work on the carbon targets of Higher Education, provide resources for students to learn about and act on sustainability.

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