Annual Review 2020: Strategic Developments

Intercity Place – a new home for the health professions

The University has signed a lease to take over a landmark building in the city from which it will train future generations of health professionals. The Intercity Place project will involve the complete regeneration of the 11-storey building overlooking Plymouth railway station. It will be reconfigured and refurbished throughout – with the exterior also being rejuvenated – so that the finished development creates a striking and welcoming entrance to Plymouth. Once completed, it will house interprofessional clinical skills facilities for the University’s Faculty of Health and be used to train future nurses, midwives, paramedics, physiotherapists and other allied health professionals. There will also be additional educational services, enabling staff to work together in one location to support the future health workforce. The Intercity Place project forms part of the University’s wider Campus Masterplan, which outlines plans to invest in its campus and the city over the next decade.


As the largest provider of healthcare training in the South West, University staff, students and graduates have played a key role
in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. This project will ensure continued delivery and indeed expansion of the vital workforce training for our hospitals and frontline healthcare services whatever health challenges present themselves in the future. It also demonstrates our commitment to, and confidence in, the city of Plymouth, helping to transform this landmark building and breathing new life into a key part of our community.

Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice-Chancellor.

New Engineering and Design Facility

The University is moving forward with its plans to develop a multimillion-pound home for its engineering, computing, mathematics and design teaching and research. The new Engineering and Design Facility is one of the biggest developments contained within the Campus Masterplan, and is under
development with award-winning architect Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios. Incorporating a refurbishment of the Babbage Building and a new-build
component, it promises to reshape the western edge of the campus, and transform teaching in the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, and offer additional space for the School of Art, Design and Architecture. Ahead of a planning application being submitted later this summer, the University and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios have conducted a virtual consultation to give staff and the general public the chance to look at the current proposals and provide feedback.

The Digital Fabrication and Immersive Vision Laboratory

<p>Digital Fabrication<br></p>

Digital Fabrication

Two new laboratories containing leading-edge digital technologies have been opened within the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business. The Digital Fabrication Laboratory and the Immersive Media Laboratory enable new modes of creative and digital production, promising to transform teaching, research and industry engagement across a variety of areas, including digital media, art and design, architecture, the built environment and engineering. As a result, students can take advantage of new technologies in virtual and augmented reality, robotics, 3D scanning and printing, and motion capture, which together represent a significant investment by the University to support the creative economy of both Plymouth and the peninsula. And through their location on the ground floor of the Roland Levinsky Building, the laboratories have been strategically placed to ensure they are publicly accessible and close to key cultural spaces such as the Levinsky Gallery, Jill Craigie Cinema, The House and The Box.

We’re excited to be opening these two cutting-edge facilities right in the heart of the campus and the city. They will enable us to close the gap between digital media and physical production processes, fundamentally changing how we design, make and build. Rapid prototyping, new robotic production methods, advanced architectural modelling and building, and cutting-edge visualisation techniques are all now a reality for our students, researchers and partners.

Chris Bennewith, Professor of Interactive Art and Design, and Head of the School of Art, Design and Architecture.

Chief dental officer unveils simulated dental learning environment

The next generation of dentists and dental therapists enrolled at Plymouth benefit from a cutting-edge facility that fully mimics a real dental clinic. The Peninsula Dental School’s Simulated Dental Learning Environment (SDLE) features chairs, lights and even patients in the shape of ‘phantom heads’. This enables students to practise a full repertoire of procedures – including diagnosis, administering injections and performing extractions – in a safe environment before they move on to human patients. During the year, expanded facilities, in the Portland Square Building, were opened, taking the total number of chairs in the SDLE to 50, to meet the increasing demand for the University’s Bachelor of Dental Surgery and BSc (Hons) Dental Therapy and Hygiene courses. The facility was opened by England’s Chief Dental Officer, Sara Hurley.

With the extension of the SDLE suite, Plymouth again demonstrates why it is a fantastic place to learn. The technology melded with the quality of the multidisciplinary tutor team and outstanding mentorship, together with an understanding of the social context in which our future dental colleagues will be working, is a credit to the whole ethos of the University and Peninsula Dental School. The link to the community through the exemplar social enterprise, to be a force for good in Plymouth and Exeter and ignite the ambition to be a force for good in the wider world, starts here.

Sara Hurley, Chief Dental Officer.


The Student Hub

A new Student Hub was opened in January, bringing together all central student support services under one roof in the heart of the campus. Located in the Charles Seale-Hayne Library, the Student Hub is a ‘one-stop-shop’ for advice and support on a range of issues, including funding and budgeting, mental health, disability and dyslexia support, international student and immigration advice, academic help, faith and spirituality, and careers and employability. The opening was marked with a special ceremony, attended by the Vice-Chancellor and senior leaders, and the hub has been well received and supported by the student body since its launch.


Developing knowledge exchange

A grant of almost half a million pounds was awarded to the University to help students develop valuable employability skills while  simultaneously supporting the region’s economy. The £499,000 funding from the Office for Students and Research England will enable the University to advance its knowledge exchange work, with a particular focus on understanding and maximising the benefits to students of working with business and community partners and bodies. The project includes the creation of a dedicated ‘KE Academy’ that will prepare, train and equip students with the professional skills and behaviours required to deliver knowledge exchange in a variety of settings, including businesses, the public sector, social enterprises and communities. The University is expecting around 1,300 students from within its Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business to take part over the course of the two-year project.

The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business has a strong record of working with partners in our local business sectors as well as the community. We also maintain a strong focus on retaining graduate talent in the region. This project will bring those aspects together as we look towards an important period of recovery for Plymouth and the South West, and then the growth that we hope lies beyond.

Dr Bonnie Latimer, Project Lead and Associate Dean for Education and Student Experience, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business.

University launches unique music technology degree

A unique degree course has been launched that builds on the University’s world-leading expertise in computer music research. The BSc (Hons) Computing, Audio and Music Technology is designed to equip graduates for careers in music, audio, computing and creative technology, providing education and skills development in recording, mixing, mastering, acoustics, digital audio workstations, audio processing, sound synthesis, and many other areas. Complementing these traditional skills in music and audio technology, the research-led degree will allow students to design and program their own software – a unique aspect that ensures students will not be bound by the limitations of what is available commercially.


This is the age of technology and online resources, and our students will develop these new technologies. We want to put them behind the curtain, to find out what’s behind the screen and ask them: you work with this software, but can you make it, and understand how it works in depth by knowing how it is programmed?

Eduardo Miranda, Professor in Computer Music, School of Humanities and Performing Arts, and Head of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research.


Education and Student Experience

The University has built its reputation upon the quality of its teaching and learning for more than 150 years. From those trainee mariners who were educated and prepared for life at sea in the 19th century, to our contemporary doctors, lawyers, biologists and engineers, the University has been renowned for providing its students with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to succeed in the world.

There are many components to this: staff who love to teach and who want students to be a part of a shared academic community; a commitment to investing in facilities and equipment; a willingness to embrace pedagogic best practice and to innovate through sustainability; and a research-led curriculum, where students are learning from and engaging with academics who are leading explorations of research questions of the moment.

This year, as for the whole university sector, some of those underpinning tenets of the teaching and learning culture were challenged in a most profound way. The COVID-19 pandemic and societal lockdown meant we had to close the doors of our campus. Lecture theatres and laboratories, tutorials and examinations were either out of bounds or had to be reassessed and repurposed for the digital domain.

It took a huge amount of work from University teams to deliver that – many working around the clock against a variety of home challenges – but they delivered, and our students coped admirably with the changes. It was a genuine ‘coming together’ of our academic community.

The legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic very much influences our future as well. A great deal of focus has fallen upon how we deliver an even better student experience, one that provides equally and flexibly for those who want to be on campus and learning in a safe environment, and those who prefer to be based remotely, engaging with us through digital channels.

As the results of this year’s National Student Survey show – where we were in the top 25 universities for overall teaching – we are succeeding in delivering a distinctive south-west coast experience. But we have more to do, and we have the strategy in place to further improve our innovative education portfolio of truly excellent programmes and to grow still further our international footprint. From such a challenging year, there is cause for reflection, celebration and anticipation.

Professor Julian Chaudhuri
Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Education and Student Experience