Free hire of rooms opens doors for community

Local groups are being offered the free use of the University of Edinburgh’s spaces following a successful pilot of a new scheme.

Maureen Watson, Volunteer English for Speakers of Other Languages Teacher, teaching a class at the University of Edinburgh

The Community Access to Rooms initiative enables community groups to hire a range of University spaces at no cost when they are not in use for learning, teaching and research.

The scheme has been established to help local groups hold meetings, workshops, events and even rehearsals without the burden of usual room hire costs.

Initially trialled with groups affiliated with the University, it is now being extended to include all local community groups and organisations in the region.

Successful trial

During the pilot, which began in 2022, more than 2,000 hours of free meeting space was used by 40 community groups.

Overall, it is thought to have saved them an estimated £16,500 based on average room hire costs in Edinburgh’s city centre.

Groups to have benefitted so far include Bare Productions theatre production company, who used room space for rehearsals, auditions and events in support of its shows at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The initiative has also provided a central location for English-learning classes hosted by The Welcoming Association – a charity supporting asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Edinburgh.

By eliminating the cost of venue hire, the charity has managed to hold 240 classes on University premises, and has seen a 40 per cent rise in attendees.

The cost of rent is flying up in Edinburgh and we wouldn’t be able to operate without this fantastic scheme. Not only has this enabled us to further help New Scots learn English and begin to integrate in their new city by making new friends, building self-confidence (often after very testing times) and eventually finding employment and a sense of belonging, but the very fact that they are literally attending classes at the University of Edinburgh is inspiring to our service users.

David CarpenterEnglish for Speakers of Other Languages Coordinator at The Welcoming Association

Civic responsibility

Community Access to Rooms is part of the University’s commitment to deliver positive change in Edinburgh and beyond.

The University’s 2020-2025 Community Plan sets out clear aims for how the institution supports people in its local community.

The University has already delivered on many of its pledges, including opening a new community outreach centre, supporting student-led social enterprises and extending support to refugees and asylum seekers who have made Edinburgh their home.

We are proud to be able to open our doors and support local groups and organisations. Making Community Access to Rooms permanent and expanding its reach truly reflects on our commitment to create a vibrant and inclusive hub to help our community flourish.

Professor Lesley McAraAssistant Principal Community Relations at the University of Edinburgh

Related links

Community Access to Rooms scheme | The University of Edinburgh

Free to flourish: Community groups thrive in University spaces | The University of Edinburgh

Our Community Plan | The University of Edinburgh

Image credit - Jakub Tansey/ The University of Edinburgh