All you need to know!
A striking university memory for most is the scenic trip back to St Andrews from Leuchars bus stop, past a huge factory-like site featuring the St Andrews crest proudly plastered on a sign reading ‘The Eden Campus’. As a first-year, I remember personally seeing this and questioning whether to get off the bus or be taken further into the Scottish wilderness. A frantic Google search confirmed that I did not need to get off. Instead, I discovered a mysterious university building I had never heard of…
Since my discovery, I have often worked in the Walter Bower House Library situated in the Eden Campus. However, I have yet to see another soul walk in there. When the automatic lights finally turn off, thinking nobody is in the room, I surprise them with my best dance moves. Even as a frequent visitor, I am still unaware of what this place truly has to offer.
This area was first home to a whiskey distillery opened by William Haig in 1810. However, as with many businesses, profit maximisation was at the forefront. In 1873, Haig and his two sons formed the Guardbridge Paper Company. The site was changed into a paper mill to support this new venture and went into action in 1874. The development of this mill helped shape Guardbridge and allowed it to grow. Before World War I, there were 400 people employed there, and this reached a peak of about 620 workers in the 1950s. Unfortunately, after several changes in ownership, the Mill entered receivership and was closed in 2008, making 180 employees redundant.
Fast forward to 2018, this degrading brownfield site was set to receive a new lease of life after confirmation that the University was to be granted over £26 million for “transformative infrastructure works” at what is known today as the Eden Campus. These works included renovating the derelict buildings and protecting their longevity with new sea defences. For the first time in 100 years, locals have been able to access the site, walk along the estuary and enjoy the environment that is being maintained and protected by the University.
This site is now a primary hub for externally-facing activities such as energy production, R&D activities and space for external companies. Exactly 96 per cent of the site has been designated for this purpose, reflecting the ambition that the main focus is on welcoming commercial activity or collaborative university-industry projects. The remaining 4 per cent of the site is intended for university; use such as office space for 450 staff. Plans are not incorporating spaces specifically for undergraduate study due to the University's aim to maintain the undergraduate experience in town as much as possible. The plans also exclude the rumours of housing being created here, sorry to disappoint.
However, students should be excited about the potential this development has for us. Bringing industry closer to town means that research, internship and job prospects should increase. The team at the Eden Campus have begun providing tours for students in Geography, Environmental Science and Management to act as a case study for low-carbon site creation. This site is intended to be state-of-the-art and a leader in a concept being increasingly spoken about; sustainability.
The University is chasing a huge net-zero ambition by 2035. The Eden Campus has been pitched as the University's ‘sustainability hub’ which is to play a pivotal role in sustainability initiatives. For example, since the initial investment in 2018, a 6.5MW biomass plant has been built, recording significant impacts like reducing the University's carbon footprint by 20 per cent and providing heating for 48 university buildings and 3,000 student rooms. The creation of a 1MW solar array provides electricity to the whole site maintaining its stance as a low-carbon site.
This news continues to excite students and industry alike. Recently we heard about the opening of the Colin Vincent Centre for Battery Technology at the site. Companies such as Rastech are based here and the ambition is to invite companies who provide insight into low-carbon technologies like hydrogen fuel cells or sustainable chemicals.
Given the accessibility of the site by bike, hike, or bus, if you share any interest in the sustainability of the University or just want a quiet place to study, I highly recommend visiting this campus!