Major expansion at UCD gets €350m loan from European Investment Bank

29 Oct 2021

Prof Mark Rogers, Deputy President and Registrar, UCD with Christian Kettel Thomsen, VP, European Investment Bank and Prof Eilis Hennessy, academic director, centre for future learning at UCD. Image: Jason Clarke

The developments planned include a new extension to the O’Brien Centre for Science and a centre for future learning.

University College Dublin (UCD) has secured a large loan with European Investment Bank (EIB) to support its plans for a major expansion on its Belfield campus. The project will cost an estimated €1bn. The EIB has agreed to provide €350m.

The university hopes to increase the campus’ faculty numbers by 50pc and its student numbers by 25pc in the next few years.

The remainder of the funding will be sourced via philanthropic donations, increased student numbers, loans and Government grants.

Prof Mark Rogers, deputy president of UCD said: “We have more students and employees at UCD than ever before. To ensure that we have the facilities in place to accommodate the targeted increases in student and employee numbers, we must provide additional academic as well as sport and student amenities spaces. The funding facility provided by the EIB gives us the opportunity to achieve this objective.”

The new developments planned at the university include a new extension to the O’Brien Centre for Science. This extension will mark the third phase of upgrading science at UCD and includes the refurbishment of the physics and mathematics, earth sciences and biology wings. By the time it is completed, the facility will be more than 66,000 sq m in size and will cater to teaching and research departments spanning health, ICT, environment and human wellbeing.

There is also a centre for creativity in the plans, which will be constructed near the main entrance to UCD. This 12,600 sq m centre will promote multi-disciplinary collaboration and will include teaching facilities and studios.

A centre for future learning will be a 11,600 sq m building that will be used by all UCD colleges as an ‘active learning’ location promoting informal and group learning.

The expansion will also see the refurbishment of the Newman building, which houses arts, humanities and social sciences, as well as the James Joyce Library. These are some of the oldest teaching buildings at Belfield.

Educational development projects such as UCD’s are a key lending priority for the EIB. The organisation’s president, Dr Werner Hoyer, visited the campus recently following the loan announcement.

“It’s great to be back in Dublin and see at first hand how investing in higher education is investing in the future. The campus development will build on UCD’s world-class scientific, engineering and social science strengths and provide even better student health and sporting facilities,” he said. The investment is the EIB’s largest ever financing to date for third level education in Ireland.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, said he looked forward to returning to UCD for “the opening of the very many new or refurbished doors.” Yesterday, the Taoiseach opened a newly expanded NovaUCD facility on campus for tech entrepreneurs. The €6.7m project will allow the centre to increase its capacity by 50pc.

UCD is currently Ireland’s largest university with approximately 30,000 students including almost 7,000 postgraduate and 5,000 international students.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic