Edinburgh Local

Empowering communities: University scheme provides space for growth and collaboration 

Community groups that hold an affiliation with the University (e.g. through a link with staff, students or a University community grant) can hire a number of University rooms for free.

With the aim of fostering stronger ties with its surrounding communities, a pioneering initiative, 'Community Access to Rooms' is being piloted by the University of Edinburgh. At its core lies a simple but powerful idea: offering free room hire to local community organisations when these spaces are not being used for other University purposes like teaching or research. 

Bare Productions rehearsal July 2023
Bare Productions rehearsal July 2023

This ensures that University rooms in the heart of Edinburgh are used to their fullest, and that cost is not a barrier to good quality meeting space, allowing for collaboration and creativity.  

The scheme is delivered by the University’s Community team in collaboration with Estates. 

Social value 

The initiative's popularity is clear from the varied array of organisations that have used the scheme to date. There has been a vibrant mix of educational, cultural, and developmental activities. The spaces have seen over 887 hours of community use to date, from rehearsals to teaching spaces. 

Bare Production’s theatre production company used a room regularly as a rehearsal space ahead of their performance at this years’ Fringe Festival. The Welcoming Association are using the rooms to hold English classes in a central location for New Scots in Edinburgh. 

A useful indication of the scheme’s social value is the estimated equivalent cost of renting space in central Edinburgh, which stands at £95,994. This expense can present a significant cost barrier to groups and their users. The estimated cost saving to community groups, based on local community venue hire rates is £7,096 so far.  

Without it, I honestly do not know what we would have done. The cost of rent is flying up in Edinburgh and we wouldn't be able to operate without this fantastic scheme.

(Room user)  

Thanks to this wonderful scheme, we can rehearse our productions in accessible spaces, which means that members of the community can be given more opportunities to be involved in theatre, and receive a wee bit of training during the process. We can't thank you enough.

Dominic from Bare Productions 


Expanding reach

The initiative's impact isn't restricted to the central campus. The University is about to open the doors of the Nucleus at Kings Buildings, a development that has been met with enthusiasm from both the academic and local communities. The Nucleus is one of the University’s newest buildings, providing cutting-edge collaboration space nestled in the King’s Buildings campus. 

Universities should be beacons of shared knowledge and growth. The 'Community Access to Rooms' scheme aligns perfectly with our vision of fostering a meaningful relationship between the University and the community. It's not just about providing spaces; it's about creating an environment where ideas flow freely and partnerships blossom.

Gemma Gourlay, Head of Social Impact, University of Edinburgh 

As the initiative is in its first year, to take advantage of the scheme, organisations must hold some form of connection with the University. The University is hoping that, in future, the scheme will be broadened out to include any local community group that would like to use the scheme, providing they meet some basic criteria.  

The initiative not only highlights the University’s commitment to its 2020-2025 Community Plan theme of opening the university estate for community use, but also acts as a bridge, connecting academia with the wider community it serves. 

This pilot has enabled me to increase our ESOL [English for Speakers of Other Languages] service by 40% which has been very much needed, especially when we consider the unprecedented influx of refugees from Ukraine. The fact that we can offer evening classes has opened up our service to those who, for whatever reason, find it difficult to attend our other classes.

David Carpenter, The Welcoming Association 

More information 

Find out who can use the scheme and how, including room availability. 

The University’s Community Plan 2020-2025