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New facility to address space shortage

The University of Ottawa plans to develop a brand new Learning Centre to pick up the slack from Morisset Library by no later than 2018.

The Board of Governors (BOG) approved a motion to construct the new building at its Nov. 3 meeting. The U of O has planned to expand Morisset Library since 2012, but university president Allan Rock said the building is too small, and “nearing the end of its functionality.”

“The Learning Centre will provide much-needed state of the art classroom facilities and attractive study spaces to our growing and ever-evolving student population,” said Rachel Ouellette, chief of staff of the office of the vice-president academic and provost. The new study spaces will seat more than 800 students.

The Centre will entail two “technology-friendly” 350-seat amphitheatres, as well several smaller classrooms, said Ouellette. The space behind Lamoureux Hall will soon become a student hub with its own food services, classrooms, labs, and library. The new facility will also provide more space for the Faculty of Education.

Construction will begin as early as the spring and will be finished by either August 2017 or 2018, according to the board.

It’ll come at a projected cost of $83 million, drawn from government funds, the university’s revenues, private funding, and, once the Learning Centre is up and running, food revenues from the building.

Plans for a new Learning Centre are a step forward for one of the pillars of Rock’s Vision 2020 to improve the student experience on campus, but the university still needs to get moving on another leading goal to increase its research capacity, the board said.

Board member Monica Gattinger, a professor of graduate studies in the Faculty of Social Sciences, said that to pump up research, the university needs to retain its graduate students. Only 40 per cent of PhD candidates at the U of O graduate, she said.

In his report, Rock opened up discussion about proposals to the Ontario government to procure alternative sources of funding, and about potential research partnerships with various other schools.

The board also announced that budget consultations would be suspended this year, as the university hopes to develop a new form of consultation in the future. Anaïs Elboujdaini, the graduate student representative of the BOG, suggested splitting them up into several different budget proposals.

Rock also said he wanted to improve the university’s ranking on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The U of O ranked 188th in the 2014–15 report.

—With files from Lindsay MacMillan