Update to students on the outcome of Student Facilities Project Advisory Group (SFPAG) activities

Monday, June 26, 2023 - 09:15

Update: Progressing Student Facilities at Maynooth University

Dear Students 
This email  provides information on  a series of projects and actions that the Student Facilities Project Advisory Group (SFPAG) have proposed to improve the social, study, sport and cultural facilities for students on the Maynooth campus. 
Background of the work of SFPAG
Last November, SFPAG was established by the Governing Authority (GA) to make recommendations on the development of student facilities for the immediate, medium and longer term. The SFPAG met six times since last November and consisted of eight student members, eight university staff, and one external advisor. This email provides an overview of the work achieved by the group. 
The group had many conversations with students and facility experts, visits to other campuses in Ireland, undertook consultative forum and a student survey enabling us to gather insights on what works now and what could be improved. Their task was to provide recommendations in the short, medium, and long-term. This included refurbishments, repurposing spaces (into student facilities), extending current facilities, and constructing new ones. A facilities consultation group will be established in the next academic year to keep the conversation going, support actions and encourage student engagement and communication.
Since last autumn, the following student facilities developments were completed

  • Improvements to the outdoor gym, refurbished tennis courts
  • Improved commuter facilities 
    • Bus terminus
    • New Car park
  • Additional new furniture for social spaces in buildings around the campus
  • Reorganisation of computer facilities PACR in the Arts Building

The future plans have been shaped by student consultation. The group shared experiences (including from the MSU Student Experience Survey of over 2,000 responses), hosted forums with Clubs and Societies, and conducted a student facilities survey with over 545 responses. As well as this, the group undertook site visits to four other university campuses and had discussions with 22 experts in facilities, libraries, student support services, and sports.
The student survey gave us some really important feedback, particularly in relation to commuting students. There is a need for places to rest, change, store items, prepare food, access water, and socialise and participate in extracurricular activities between classes. We also heard that the cost of living crisis has impacted students. 
It is wonderful that there are 82 societies and 30 clubs at MU engaging with 5,930 individual student members, over 90 leaders of whom we met in a forum. It is clear they need improved facilities.
Based on the student survey, three primary areas of improvement were identified for the campus: increasing available social spaces and seating (especially for commuters), enhancing study spaces and bookable group spaces, and supporting cost of living initiatives such as space for food preparation, access to water. The feedback also indicated a preference for a student building designed around social and performance spaces, with social spaces around the campus also. Additionally, there is a significant interest in a single academic and student support services building. 
Through a combination of engaging with students, campus visits and expert consultations, we were able to identify twelve essential insights for campus developments. They informed several areas to be addressed in the short, medium, and long term, including a student building.  
Short-term actions (2022/23 to 2024/25) involve refurbishing, securing, and stabilising current student facility spaces, as well as repurposing & building other spaces into student facilities. 
We are repurposing significant spaces across the campus, primarily in Arts, TSI, MSU Student Centre, and Rye to improve immediate social, study and culture spaces for Students.

  • Creating a new Student Common room in the Arts Building (open space, capacity of 230+)
  • Creating 8 new Student Pods (bookable space for meetings of 8-12 students)
  • Renovation of the Arts Study space to improve capacity and use
  • Repurposing parts of a building to provide an increase in meeting/activity space for Clubs and Societies
  • Refurbishing parts of the MSU Student Centre
  • New Café in TSI to increase social space
  • Continuing upgrade of social seating around the campus buildings
  • Upgrade of water stations on North Campus
  • We are also proposing a (cost of living) Pantry initiative in partnership with MU and MSU. This is where students can avail of free food and basic domestic supplies.

Medium-term actions (2025/26 to 2026/27) involve repurposing and extending social, cultural, and sporting facilities.

  • Plans include extending the bar and kitchen in the MSU Student Centre
  • Refurbishing the Venue performance space
  • Renovating parts of the Library
  • Expanding and refurbishing sports facilities, both indoor and outdoor.

Long-term actions (2027 to 2030+) Student Building.

  • A Student building to address the needs of students, as identified through consultation, site visits and ongoing engagement. Our goal is a six-year time frame for delivery, subject to the normal challenges of regulatory and building supply issues.

Next Steps 

  • A student facilities consultation group will be set up in the next academic year. It will engage with students, support actions and communication as the campus is renovated, repurposed, extended, and new builds emerge. 
  • The work of SFPAG provides an important roadmap that will feed into the review of the current Campus Masterplan following the approval of the new strategic plan. 
  • We will ensure ongoing communication to students on progress with student facilities. 

I would like to thank all members of the student community for your support during this work and for being members of the Maynooth University community. You bring joy and purpose to the campus.
Yours sincerely
Peter Mc Namara
Chairperson of the Student Facilities and Project Advisory Group (SFPAG)
Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences