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Work has begun on University Square Stratford, the first campus to be shared equally between two universities.

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The £33 million building is a collaboration between the University of East London and Birkbeck, University of London and will offer a wide variety of courses from law to the performing arts bringing another 3,400 students to the area.

The construction work was officially started on Wednesday with a ceremonial pouring of concrete into the foundations of the site by UEL and Birkbeck’s chair of governors, Mark Stevens and Harvey McGrath, and UEL vice chancellor Professor Patrick McGhee and Master of Birkbeck Professor David Latchman.

Designed by Make architects, the five floor building comprises 8,600 sqms of what is currently a dilapidated site next to the junction of Great Eastern Road and Grove Crescent Road to the left of Stratford Circus.

It will feature a large, light-filled atrium, teaching and performance spaces, academic and administrative offices, a student advice centre, IT helpdesk, cafe and small library ready for the beginning of the academic year in autumn 2013.

The project is the first time two higher education institutions have worked together to create a shared building but the space will also be available to local community, business and arts groups.

The funding comes from a wide range of financial backers including the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the London Thames Gateway Development.

UEL vice chancellor Professor Patrick McGhee said: “It is great to see building work get under way on this exciting new initiative.

“University Square will bring higher education into the communities of east London in a way that has never been done before and play and important role in the remarkable transformation of this part of London.”

Master of Birkbeck Professor David Latchman said: “University Square is an exciting developmentin Birkbeck’s project to extend the availability of its unique, evening taught provision in east London.

“The shared nature of the building means that students in Stratford will benefit from a truly flexible, high-quality, higher education offering. We are delighted the building work has now officially started.”

Last month, University College London also announced plans to build a new campus in Stratford in partnership with Newham Council.

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