News & Insights

Morgan Sindall Construction to deliver £15 million transformation of historic Oxford University building


Morgan Sindall Construction has been selected by the University of Oxford to deliver a £15 million programme of work to build a new home for the University’s first new college in three decades: Reuben College.

In doing so, the company will expand, renovate and reconfigure the Grade II listed Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) to create fully accessible, flexible spaces for the College’s Common Room and areas for quiet study, group meetings and social occasions. The works also include the modernisation of the RSL on the top floor and the refurbishment of a two-level basement to serve as a high-quality storage and teaching facility for museum collections.

Morgan Sindall Construction was appointed through the University’s capital projects partner framework, having won a place on all three of the frameworks lots when it was launched last summer.
Last month, the University received a landmark £80 million gift from the Reuben Foundation – a charitable organisation which focuses on healthcare and education. The donation will support both the new college and the establishment of major new scholarship programmes for Reuben College graduate students and for undergraduate students.

Opened in 1901 and located in the heart of the Oxford University Science Area, the current RSL building is the main teaching and research science library at the University. Within the three upper floors, it holds the legal deposit material for all mathematical, physical, engineering and life sciences (MLPS) and medical disciplines. The two basement floors, added in 1975, are used primarily to store the University’s museum collections.

The redevelopment project was commissioned by a partnership of three University stakeholders: the Bodleian Libraries, which includes the Radcliffe Science Library and is the largest university library system in the UK; the four University museums – Ashmolean Museum, History of Science Museum, Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum; and Reuben College (formerly known as Parks College) – the first new Oxford college established since 1990. Construction and renovation work will take place in the historic Jackson and Worthington Wings of the RSL; the Abbot’s Kitchen – a chemistry laboratory built in the 1850s, modelled on the homonymous room at Glastonbury Abbey; and the west wing of the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory (ICL).

These buildings are arranged around a courtyard alongside the Grade I listed University Museum of Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museum. The courtyard area will become the public face and front door of the new college, providing an important space for arrival, external amenities and public engagement.

The refurbishment and reconfiguration of the internal spaces will be carried out sympathetically, to preserve and celebrate the notable heritage features, including those within the ornate ceilings, and timber panelling and bookcases.

This will create modern library facilities, flexible spaces for study, collaboration, exhibitions and public events, and a new Museums Collections Teaching and Research Centre (CTRC) and accompanying store for the University’s museums.

The CTRC will provide high-quality storage for University collections, as well as facilities for their display, digitisation and preservation. Plans for the redevelopment include waterproofing and refurbishment of the two basement levels, which will create a world-class, environmentally-controlled dense collection store and conservation laboratory.

Replacement of mechanical and electrical services throughout will dramatically improve the building’s energy performance and reduce the University’s carbon footprint.

Facilities which will be built specifically for Reuben College students include a new dining hall, common room, study areas, and offices for college members. When it opens next year, the college will initially welcome up to 100 (rising to 200 annually) graduate research students, studying in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning, environmental change and cellular life.

Each of the project’s stakeholders will have individually allocated spaces, in addition to the shared workspaces in the refurbished buildings, to meet their respective needs.

In keeping with the University’s commitment to sustainability, only one-third of the existing parking will be retained, and that will be solely for disabled and operational use. In its place, there will be attractive, walkable public realm and new cycle storage capacity for 200 bikes; allowing for a ratio of at least 1 space per 2.8 occupants of the buildings.

Construction work will begin imminently and complete in time for the new academic year in 2021.

James York, area director at Morgan Sindall Construction, said: “The RSL is steeped in history; both the building itself and the invaluable knowledge and records contained within its books, manuscripts and museum collections.
"Our work will ensure they can be preserved and displayed for years to come, while also serving as an inspiration to the next generation of post-graduate students studying in the first Oxbridge college to be established in three decades.
“We’re very proud to be collaborating with all of the stakeholders involved to ensure the successful delivery of this multi-faceted project; one which holds such significance to both the University’s past, and its future.”

Professor Lionel Tarassenko, President of Reuben College, and Catriona Cannon, Project SRO and Fellow of the College, added: “Morgan Sindall Construction impressed us from the start with their enthusiasm and commitment to the vision underpinning this project. We are delighted to be working with them, and confident that they will deliver our refurbished buildings with 21st century facilities in a way that is sensitive to their historic surroundings.”

  • For more information about this news release please contact Jonathan Daly at Influential on 0151 239 5000 or email