Edinburgh Students’ Union forced to clarify renovation plans after backlash

A petition has been set up to stop the temporary closure of Teviot

Edinburgh University’s Students’ Association (EUSA) has been forced to clarify the reasons behind a plan to renovate its main campus building following student backlash.

EUSA announced on Monday that Teviot Row House in Bristo Square will close for over a year from October 2023 as part of a major renovation project for the popular student hub.

After frustration was expressed on social media, the SU has today been forced to release a statement clarifying that the work is “essential” for building safety and “very overdue”.

Students are angry because they say the bars, cafes and study spaces are an important social and financial lifeline for students and that renovations are unnecessary.

“What the student body needs is cheap places to socialise and study in, which is why we love Teviot – don’t take this away from us during a cost of living crisis when spaces like this are scarce as is!”, one wrote.

Another added, “The student body deserves a say in impactful decisions like this— where was the vote?”.

A petition has now been set up, aiming to shield the building from the influence of so-called “cynical, bland, corporate interests that seek to destroy it”.

Computer-generated pictures posted on Instagram show how the building is expected to be modernised. However, a number of spaces will not be altered, including the Library Bar, Dining Room, Debating Hall and Teviot Garden.

The building’s iconic design has become a focus for those opposed to the renovation. “Keep your millennial gray off this beautiful building”, wrote one student on social media.

Both EUSA and the University of Edinburgh have defended the project. Writing to students, Vice-Principal Colm Harmon and Deputy Secretary Lucy Evans said the upgrade will ensure Teviot is environmentally efficient, and improve accessibility and toilet provision.

“We’ll be enhancing and modernising facilities throughout the building such as the café and bar areas, as well as repurposing some spaces to create a new student community lounge, student group workspaces, a wellbeing studio and a gallery”, they wrote in an email to the student body.

EUSA has acknowledged that Teviot “leaves a big gap to fill”. It says it will work with the university to provide alternative study and social spaces for students during the closure.

The student petition aiming to stop the renovation has almost 700 signatures at the time of publication.

To read EUSA’s full statement, please click here.

A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said: “As part of our mission to improve the student experience, we are continually investing in our buildings in order to provide world-class facilities. Current proposals include improved accessibility, modernised spaces for studying and social use, and the upgrading of essential services and fire safety measures. The works will ensure that Teviot’s character, charm and its unique heritage and history are preserved, while providing the modern facilities that students expect.

“We are also aware that the absence of Teviot leaves a big gap to fill, therefore we will be providing alternative spaces for students to use at the Pleasance and Potterrow in order minimise any disruption.”

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