The largest self-contained student accommodation facility of its kind ever built in Australia officially launched at the University of Sydney this week, setting a new national benchmark for community living on campus.
The Queen Mary Building has welcomed 800 students since it first opened its doors this July, representing a milestone in affordable and secure housing in the vibrant heart of Sydney's Inner West.
At an official launch celebration on Wednesday 23 September, Chancellor of the University of Sydney Belinda Hutchinson AM and Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence, joined current student residents for a first-hand glimpse into a day-in-the-life of the residence. NSW Health Minister, the Hon. Jillian Skinner, will also delivered a speech as part of the official proceedings.
In a unique housing experiment, beds in the fully-furnished quarters of the Queen Mary Building are specifically allocated for optimal integration of residents, with international students housed alongside rural and Sydney-based students.
International students from 75 countries join a local student population representing 130 cultural backgrounds in the vast 12-storey complex, which is located on the heritage-listed site of the former nurses' quarters of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) on Grose Street at the University's Camperdown campus.
The Queen Mary Building has become a "major cosmopolitan community" at the reinvigorated site, said Jordi Austin, Director of Student Support Services.
"We recognised that having appropriate accommodation right on the doorstep of the University greatly enhances the quality of student life," she said.
"Our consultations and surveys with students have shown that travelling long distances to and from classes significantly detracts from their ability to engage with University life, not to mention the expensive commuting costs associated with living away from campus."
The Queen Mary Building has not only given hundreds of students ease of access by living a stone's throw from campus, it has also exposed them to new cultures and ideas from their diverse peer community.
Students have been consulted about the design of the facility since concept phase. The building features purpose-built breakout spaces to encourage interaction between residents, including study spaces, meeting rooms, music rooms, entertainment lounges, a gym and a theatrette. A sky lounge and rooftop garden also offer sweeping views of the city, along with a laundry with arguably Sydney's best view of the skyline.
"Affordability is also a key consideration for students," said Ms Austin. "The University has explicitly designed the spaces for students to meet a rental threshold 25 per cent below market rates. The quality of the facilities at this price point represents very good value for our students."
Despite its modern fit-out, the building retains nostalgic elements of its bygone days as nurses quarters from 1956 to 2002. Wall decals featuring archive photos of nurses at work line the hallways, a women's-only bathroom contains original heritage furnishings, and art installments built from ceramic hospital sinks are on display.
Residents have the opportunity to govern the cultural life of the building through a student grants scheme, which provides funding for academic and social events like cooking classes, language courses and sporting contests.
Student feedback citing the importance of safe housing has been incorporated into the building’s infrastructure, with CCTV coverage, a 24-hour staff presence, electronic card access to rooms and campus security patrols of the site.
Current Year 12 students hoping to live and study at the University of Sydney can apply for a place in the Queen Mary Building from September this year for the Semester 1 intake starting January 2016, or take a virtual tour of the facilities.
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