The prospect of a business school at Queen’s Park had been rumoured for months but the university was unwilling to confirm any details even when a change-of-use planning application was granted approval to convert offices into an educational facility.
Neighbouring residents are being reassured that the campus, located in Capital and Bridge House, will be ‘non-residential’ although many still fear students will want to live nearby, raising the prospect of the kind of studentification issues reported by people in Garden Quarter.
This is compounded by rumours the university is also targeting the nearby West Cheshire College building, which is scheduled to close, although this has been dismissed as ‘speculation’ by the university.
Vice Chancellor Professor Tim Wheeler said: “In the 21st century, the worlds of higher education and business are inextricably linked and our new Handbridge site presents a suitably impressive value proposition for all our stakeholders. We are very mindful that one of those interested parties is the surrounding community and can assure residents that over the summer we will restore the Capital and Bridge buildings and their grounds to their former glory. This is an important acquisition in the university’s 175th part of our commemorative celebrations.”
Chester Business School will open for the start of the academic year, beginning this September, featuring ‘state-of-the-art’ learning facilities and with close proximity to the city centre and Chester Business Park plus ‘excellent’ transport links.
The university says it will offer ease of access to local companies who make use of the business school’s many services including world leading research, workforce development and consultancy as well as providing ‘an ideal venue’ for business conferences and events.
Postgraduate, undergraduate, international and part-time professional students will all utilise the new site, which will offer programmes including the MBA, and postgraduate and undergraduate programmes in international business, management, accounting, marketing, tourism and events management.
Students will benefit from facilities including 200-seat lecture theatres, a dedicated business library, PC suites and networking areas and a Starbucks ‘grab and go cafe’. It will also include a top floor, brasserie-style dining room with picturesque views over the Dee and 2.3 acres of campus grounds with formal gardens and walkways.
Originally built as the Western Command Army base, wartime meetings were reputedly held in the bomb-proof bunkers at the site between Winston Churchill, General Eisenhower and General de Gaulle. The underground bunkers are still intact but sealed off.
Professor Ruth Ashford, executive dean of the University of Chester Business School, commented: “This is truly one of the city’s most imposing sites, which has great synergy with the professional nature of the business education and world class research undertaken at Chester Business School. It will really add value to our students’ experience.
“It is wonderful to think that we will be developing our students as tomorrow’s strategic leaders in a building which was the central command post for such important world leaders who shaped our future.”