UCL has announced the temporary closure and permanent move of the IOE bar, threatening a loss of already limited student social space
At the beginning of this term, UCL announced that they are planning to temporarily close the Institute bar at the Institute of Education, potentially as early as the end of this month. They intend to move the bar to a much smaller cellar space, beneath the current bar, ready for the start of next autumn term. The proposed new location is currently a multi-faith prayer room, meaning the multi-faith prayer area is also threatened by the decision to close the bar, and its existence was not mentioned by UCL’s proposal. The plan is to replace the bar space with teaching rooms, thereby shrinking the area’s day time function as a social study space used by both staff and students. It is unclear why this development must be placed in the Institute bar at all and not another part of the building. It has also been announced that the café section of the Institute bar will be officially closed at the end of the month.
A number of students from a variety of different departments across the university have started a campaign to make UCL hear how important and valued the Institute bar and prayer space is and are protesting its closure. The fact that the proposal is going ahead without consulting students, they say, is yet another example of UCL running itself as a business, rather than as a university. Moreover, they argue that replacing social-study space with teaching rooms that can be rented out privately after hours suggests UCL are more interested in money than they are in the needs of their students and staff. This comes after the Guardian recently published an article claiming staff moral at UCL to be at an all time low as UCL is increasingly run like a business.
A main concern surrounding the relocation of the bar is accessibility. The current bar space is easily accessible to wheelchairs. However, by moving the bar downstairs there would only be wheelchair access from the inside, rather than from the outside as well because the move would mean a loss of the outdoor space. This outdoor space and the associated natural lighting is unique to the Institute bar, other UCLU bars, like Phineas and Mully’s, do not have anything similar. They also note that in deciding to close the bar, UCL did not inform student-staff currently working in the bar and did not provide them with a formal notice period. Finally, they point out that although this bar is welcoming to all students, it is primarily used by postgraduates as a place to both work and to socialize, and it would be a huge shame for postgraduates to lose out, especially when workplaces are already a scarce commodity.
If you would like to get involved and have your say against UCL’s decision to close the Institute bar and move it to a much smaller, less accessible location which then threatens the multi-faith prayer space, then you can sign the petition.
Or like the Facebook page for updates on the progress of the campaign.