This weekend will see the official opening of one of St Andrews’ most prestigious buildings which has been transformed into a 21st Century postgraduate study centre, over 400 years after it was built.
The Roundel, a category A-listed late 16th/early 17th Century house with Georgian additions, was until last year in urgent need of repair, and has been refurbished and converted into a self- contained study centre for the University’s world-renowned School of Divinity.
The ambitious £750,000 project was made possible by a generous bequest from the late Mrs Mary M Wright of St Andrews, significant support from the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Robertson Trust and contributions from members of the University’s Campaign Board, individuals, trusts and foundations.
The imposing building, which stands at 1 South Street, opposite The Pends, was previously used as living accommodation for University staff but lay empty for over 15 years. In October last year, the University began a programme of renovation.
Located in the historic buildings of St Mary’s College, the School of Divinity boasts a reputation for high quality in both teaching and research. In the UK-wide 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, the School achieved the highest grade, recognising that its research output is rated “of international excellence”.
The School’s research status has been enhanced over the years by a successful campaign to raise funds for scholarships to support high- quality research students from around the world. As a result, there has been a marked increase in postgraduate intake, currently totaling almost 80 students. It was this increased intake, coupled with inadequate study accommodation, which encouraged the University to regard the provision of new postgraduate facilities for the School of Divinity as a priority.
The new centre will deliver the postgraduate accommodation requirements of the School of Divinity while having the additional advantage of conserving an extremely important listed building for the University estate.
The renovation involved major internal and external works requiring sensitive handling to respect its historic integrity. The new study facility will comprise private study and social space in a research environment, providing both a sense of community and privacy. Postgraduate study spaces for up to 50 students are available with individual power points for computers and connection points to the computing network. Furthermore, the centre benefits from ground floor disabled access and facilities and disabled lift access to the first floor, a common room, office and discussion space and toilets including disabled toilets on the ground and first floors. The exterior works required repairs to the roof, external walls, doors and windows.
Professor Trevor Hart, Dean of Divinity said, “The restoration of the Roundel as a postgraduate centre represents an exciting opportunity to cope with a problem posed by the success of the School of Divinity. For several years, the School has attracted increasing numbers of very well- qualified students from an international arena, seeking to take doctorates and postgraduate Masters degrees in St Andrews. Being able to provide first-class study facilities to complement the excellent staff has been a serious difficulty.
“The Roundel, located on a superb site only a short distance from St Mary’s College, will not only offer high-quality individual study spaces but will also truly be a “centre” creating a supportive environment for this growing community of young scholars. We hope that it can serve as a model for further initiatives to improve facilities for research students in the Arts and Humanities.”
The University’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Dr Brian Lang, said:
“The Roundel is a handsome building, on a critical site adjacent to the Cathedral, and steeped in the history of St Andrews. It is appropriate that it be restored particularly with the needs of postgraduate Divinity students in mind. The Roundel is a first rate addition to the University’s facilities for research and learning. I am very pleased by what has been achieved in this sensitive and high quality refurbishment, a project that demonstrates the University’s determination to care properly for the many historic buildings in its care.”
The renovation, welcomed by Historic Scotland, was carried out with meticulous attention to detail by James F Stephen Architects of Glamis, in close consultation with Fife Planning Service and Historic Scotland, without loss to the considerable historic character of the building.
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