Undergraduate Centre and Access Centre

Wadham College started construction on two new buildings in 2018; a fully accessible undergraduate centre, and teaching space and accommodation, continuing the evolution of the College’s 17th century site in the heart of Oxford. Both buildings are due to be completed in August 2020.

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Improving accessibility to Wadham College and its buildings is key to plans to develop a new Undergraduate Centre and Access Centre at Wadham.

The two new buildings will have 24-hour accessibility for students with disabilities and will enable the College to expand and develop its work with students from disadvantaged ‘widening participation’ backgrounds.  By creating an active learning, social and creative space for groups and individuals, the buildings will expand the range of learning environments in College, providing an alternative to the formal structure of the Library or the isolation of a bedroom.  

Watch building progress via our live webcam

What will it look like?

The Dr Lee Shau Kee Building has been designed to house the College’s extensive access and outreach programme. This dedicated access facility will offer purpose-built space for welcoming schools and hosting Wadham's innovative access programmes and residential summer schools. The building will have a dedicated music room, space for public lectures and disability-accessible student accommodation.

The William Doo Undergraduate Centre will be at the heart of the student community and have study areas, social space, an art room, café, e-hub and Junior Common Room where undergraduate students can gather to study, exchange ideas and socialise.

The development has been carefully designed and sensitively scaled to the surroundings, including the historic foundation buildings and the Holywell Music Room, as well as the modern entrance building to the Graduate Centre.  The materials incorporated in the design provide a transition from the gothic architecture of the Front Quad. The buildings will have more natural light and will improve pedestrian access between the Back Quad and JCR Quad. 

The William Doo Undergraduate Centre

Artists' impressions of the William Doo Undergraduate Centre (left) and the Dr Lee Shau Kee Building (right).

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Undergraduate Centre lounge

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Seminar room

Internationally acclaimed RIBA Stirling Prize-winning architects AL_A were chosen by Wadham's Governing Body to design the buildings. Founded by Amanda Levete CBE in 2009, AL_A has won international praise for their bold and inspirational projects around the world. Commissions include the Victoria & Albert Museum Exhibition Road Quarter in London, MAAT in Lisbon, the Central Embassy tower in Bangkok and the remodelling of Galeries Lafayette Haussmann in Paris.

Key objectives

Wadham plans to provide a dedicated space where prospective school students from Wadham’s target areas can participate in outreach programmes such as residential summer schools and academic taster sessions. By combining world class facilities with academic mentoring and information about what university has to offer we hope to inspire new generations of young people to apply to Oxford. Wadham students will continue to play a vital role in this access work, meeting and talking to school students about their personal journeys to Oxford from a variety of different backgrounds.

Providing all Wadham’s current students with state of the art facilities is vital for Wadham to be able to continue to attract academically talented undergraduate students from across the UK and beyond. The new undergraduate centre will allow students with mobility-related disabilities to have better access to student facilities and provide all undergraduates with new social and working spaces including an e-hub, café, bar, common room and lounge, as well as student bedrooms, laundry, kitchen and music rooms.

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Consulting staff and students


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Public consultation


Student consultation

Student consultation

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Sketch showing the E-hub

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Sketch showing a student bedroom

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The staircase linking the two buildings

Since the initial offer of donor funding towards these buildings, Wadham students and staff have been involved in the pre-planning process, through a variety of focus groups and committees. Working in consultation with the Oxford Design Review Panel, Historic England, Oxford Preservation Trust and others, the architects have created two outstanding buildings which will provide much needed facilities and improved functionality.

"Looks Fantastic! I love how it will connect Wadham’s rather separate quads, and with a modern, functional and exciting space", Wadham student.

"Very good!  Please build it quicker so I haven’t already graduated when it’s built", Wadham student.

"I love and appreciate the thought that has gone into it, such as making the colours match the stained glass in the chapel", Wadham student.

"Exciting development, looks fantastic", Wadham staff member.


The College commissioned AL_A as project architects in July 2016 and the firm has since wored with the College Building Working Group to develop the detailed designs for the new buildings.

Bidwells, an Oxford-based construction management firm, has been commissioned to manage the project, overseen by the College Building Working Group. The plans were submitted for approval in November 2017 and approved in March 2018. Demolition of existing buildings started in July 2018, with construction of the new buildings beginning in December 2018. The anticipated completion date is August 2020.

Information for staff and students

Subject to building schedules, the building is due to be completed by August 2020.

The exciting new William Doo Undergraduate Centre will span four levels, with all areas accessible by lift or feature stairways. A bands room and laundry room will be located in the basement, the ground floor will comprise a bar, kitchen and JCR, and the first floor will include a café, lounge and e-hub, all with improved technologies. The second floor includes an art room and large e-hub in addition to academic office facilities. The Undergraduate Centre will provide, for the first time, accessibility to the student kitchen, laundry room, bands room and secure bicycle store, with room for adapted cycles and an improved layout to optimise space.

The Dr Lee Shau Kee Building entrance will provide a light and airy meeting and exhibition space, providing an inviting environment in which to welcome visiting school students. The ground floor will comprise a large lobby, piano room, meeting room, seminar room and office. The first and second floors will be devoted to en-suite student accommodation with 20 rooms, three of which will be fully accessible and two which will facilitate assisted living.

The broad external staircase leading from Back Quad into the new building and up to the library is designed to provide a sunny meeting point and relaxation area, with external informal social spaces at the first floor level and in the JCR Quad at the rear of the new development. The design of the two buildings allows sight lines into JCR Quad from Back Quad and a connecting passageway between the buildings, in the form of a cloister, will allow easy circulation towards student accommodation in the Bowra building. The Library terrace will be redeveloped, making it a more accessible and inviting circulation space.

During the two year development process, Wadham will be making every effort to enable College life to continue with the least disruption possible. Alternative accommodation and social spaces will be provided for students and staff and, in consultation with all, a number of measures will be put in place to encourage a constructive working environment.

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The new buildings will have an area about 25% greater than the existing buildings, but the usage of both gas and electrical energy will be much lower.

The following sustainable design principles have been developed:

• Re-use of basement - this will minimise groundworks and allow existing plant and structures to be re-used
• Recycling and re-use of demolition material wherever possible
• Use of cross laminated timber for floor slabs and stairs
• Renewable energy generation from photovoltaic and solar thermal panels at roof level
• Maximising use of natural ventilation
• Maximising daylighting to rooms
• Collection and recycling of rainwater for WC flushing



Improved landscaping and planting is crucial to this building project and the 'Tree of Heaven' in Back Quad is to be retained and carefully protected throughout construction. The College is working with the Council's Tree Officer and an arboreal survey has been completed. Access between different levels will be eased and a gentle ramp around the entire JCR Quad will further improve accessibility.

Who's involved

Architects: AL_A
Building Contractor: Beard Construction
Project Managers: Bidwells
Building Working Group and sub-groups

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The existing JCR and Goddard buildings were built in 1951. The Goddard building contains bedrooms which are not accessible for students, staff or visitors with restricted mobility.

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Demolition and construction sites can be dangerous. Our priority is the health and safety of everyone. If you need to contact Beard Construction or Wadham College, please ring us or email but do not enter the site. 

Please make any children in your care aware that the building site is not a playground and they must not enter.

During demolition and construction our contractors will try to work in a way that causes as little inconvenience as possible. We apologise for any unavoidable nuisance that may be caused during the work.