Student Hub Research Programme

University College Cork is committed to research-led practice and wishes to leverage the strengths across all of its disciplines to inform the strategy for the use of Teaching and Learning spaces across the campus. As part of this objective, the Office of the Vice-President for Teaching & Learning wishes to convene a multi-disciplinary research team, of students and staff, researchers and supervisors, with expertise across fields such as architecture, teaching & learning, education, technology, psychology and sociology to inform the transition to the Student Hub. This building will bring together the various administrative and educational strands of University Life in a new student-focused building. Further information on the new Student Hub, together with drawings and detailed timelines can be found at

The Student Hub at UCC is scheduled to open in 2018 and this research programme aims to engage students and staff in the study of space design and the use of space to underpin the implementation of the Hub as an innovative space within which student learning and development will be facilitated and supported. The programme has been created to build capacity and to support the transition to the student hub through interdisciplinary research and to strengthen capacity for relevant research. The specific objectives of the programme are to:

  1. Engage students and staff in learning space design for the Student Hub;
  2. Inform the development of new spaces in the Student Hub, in relation to design, pedagogies and how space is used;
  3. Optimise teaching, learning and the student experience in the Student Hub;
  4. Assess the impact of the Student Hub on teaching, learning and the staff and student experience.

Research shows that buildings lead to change in pedagogical practices and the student experience when students and teachers are involved in their development. University facilities and space play a major role in attracting and retaining students and in the student experience. Construction and renovation opportunities in Higher Education are shaped by changing student expectations, evolving pedagogies, and new technologies (Figure 1). In a modern university, learning takes place both in and out of the classroom, in formal and informal spaces, and student engagement is positively impacted by comfortable, flexible and appealing learning spaces that encourage interaction and are supported by technology.

Pedagogy-space-technology framework for the design of learning spaces

Pedagogy-space-technology framework for the design of learning spaces 

A detailed understanding of how students learn, of how they interact with each other and with staff, and how this impacts on student welfare and the student experience is critical to the development of spaces such as the Student Hub at UCC to suit the diverse needs of students. When backed by evidence, campus transformation initiatives, such as the Student Hub at UCC, can be instrumental in attracting students.

This programme will use evidence-based criteria derived from the study of existing space at UCC to support future development in the spaces at the Student Hub at UCC and will subsequently evaluate the deployment of new space in the Hub. Research recommends the use of experimental spaces to evaluate ideas before committing resources and finance, and this programme will make a significant impact on the student experience locally, using local evidence, while also contributing to this emerging research field in the wider context.

This programme aims to establish a multi-disciplinary team of supervisors (recruited via an open call to all UCC staff) and undergraduate students (recruited through the supervisors) to explore the role of space in shaping the student experience. Specifically it will investigate existing space at UCC to identify effective space designs that that can be translated to the new Student Hub and evaluate the subsequent impact of these spaces on teaching, learning and student experience. Once established this team will seek non-exchequer funding to sustain its work into the future.

Programme Timeframe:
January 2017 – December 2020

Proposal Sponsors:
Prof John O’Halloran, Vice-President for Teaching & Learning (Lead Sponsor)

Dr Michael Byrne, Acting Head of Student Experience
Dr Sandra Irwin, Office of the Vice-President for Teaching & Learning
Eolann Sheehan, President, UCC Students' Union 2016/17
Ian Hutchinson, Vice-President for Education, UCC Students’ Union 2016/17
Dr Sarah Mulrooney, Cork Centre for Architectural Education
Dr Orla Murphy, Digital Arts and Humanities
Dr Mike Cosgrave, Digital Arts and Humanities


We are currently seeking applications for participation in this research team by supervisors, undergraduates and postgraduates undertaking research in this field. Staff and students from all disciplines are encouraged to submit proposals that represent innovative projects to develop new collaborations and enable the team to submit competitive applications for external research grants.

A full scholarship is now available for a year-long Research Masters within this research programme and final year project students in relevant disciplines are also invited to participate.

The deadline for application for this Masters position is 23rd June 2017, for further information and to apply please visit: 


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