The Mancunion

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Bowling alley, IMAX cinema, and sleeping pods: future features of the SU?

Student consultation for proposed re-development of Students’ Union produces some outlandish suggestions


The Students’ Union has conducted research in to building re-development after being assigned £4 million within the University of Manchester’s estate strategy.

Students were asked to make suggestions for what their ideal Students’ Union would contain, “if money were no object”. The final project could include an added floor to increase capacity.

The most frequent responses referred to ‘no pressure seating’ (i.e. seating and space without any commercial pressure), improved café and bar, and society space. Other popular answers were to provide spaces for a nap, games rooms with xbox and ps3, and a swimming pool.

“Also a full 3D IMAX cinema with exclusive student prices on film releases … Apart from that, the SU has pretty much everything else.”

A majority of the open text responses to the survey frequently referred to services already available within the SU, such as an advice centre, water drinking fountains, a bike rental scheme, and pool tables. Others would struggle to gain approval, namely “strippers and poledancers” or “a slide from the roof”.

In line with plans to centralise all facilities on one campus, the Students’ Union building in North Campus will be closed by 2017. The space provided in the Barnes Wallis Building and that of the former post-grad bar in the Schunck building which was closed last year due to accessibility issues must also be incorporated in to any proposed re-development of the Students’ Union building on Oxford Road.

Half of respondents in the student consultation indicated that they use the Union building once a week or more, for society activities or a place to meet friends casually.

A student spoke about their difficulty as a wheelchair user in the Students’ Union. “I don’t really know enough about the current Students’ Union to comment on, as every time I have entered it has been difficult from the start. The ramp is a mile long … inside the walking spaces are too narrow for me to pass people, so it’s a game of dodgem’s, which I hate.”

“The Union should be fully accessible with furniture at different heights for different sized people in wheelchairs, as even when a DDA compliant sized wheelchair is being used, people still sit at different heights. It feels quite excluding when you’re stuck at the edge of a table as you don’t fit under it and have to eat from the tray or hold your drink as you can’t reach the table, you miss out on conversation also. “

At least half of the proposed budget, £2million, will be reserved for addressing accessibility issues such as the ramp and the lift shaft.

Creative outlets were rated highly, calling for places to practice music or dance, and a space for art exhibitions.

One student suggested “An art room where you could paint and draw, and where the whole room would be decorated and painted by students. A music room where you could either borrow different instruments, and maybe a room where you could book to practice with your band or dance group.”

More practical ideas included “a hole in the wall for cash”, short term locker hire facilities, and an IT service shop or help desk with trusted sales people and student prices for laptop repairs/help.

Concern for medical provisions was also raised by students, calling for a walk-in emergency centre, dentists, and somewhere to get emergency contraception – one student talked of how the pharmacist in Fallowfield only provides this service one day a week, and that there can be long waiting times.

The most adventurous suggestion was for “a series of gladiatorial challenges”. Similar to that of the Gladiator programme from the 90’s, people would enter their student ID and chosen name (e.g. The Wolf) and would then complete a string of challenges.

“Such challenges may include an air tunnel with items being hurled at you,  a paintball arena (last man standing wins), the big red balls from Wipeout etc. If they succeeded and came out the other end they would receive that which students hold most dearly… free food and drink. They may then move to the bouncy castle room, swim in the chocolate pool, sit by the beer fountain and dip their tailor made tankards in copiously.”