Three New Further Education Case Studies

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From our latest research into learning spaces, we present good practice on designing for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), social learning and in-between spaces.

Further education (FE) buildings have come a long way from chalkboards and narrow corridors. Today’s spaces are designed to bring together diverse yet invaluable uses to create chances to socialise, teach and learn.

Focussing on four major FE developments finished in the last five years, our case studies focus on good practice in three design areas: STEM, social learning and in-between spaces.

Social Learning Spaces

A photo of a view between floors as people walk up to a set of stairs. The flexible entrance area at Forth Valley College Falkirk Campus
The flexible entrance area at Forth Valley College Falkirk Campus

Places that encourage learning through collaboration are important for developing and applying classroom learning. They form a key part of an education buildings design brief and require flexibility in their functionality, suitable for different needs and are sufficient for the size of the institution. These can be canteens, cafés, ‘pocket spaces’, outdoor or indoor spaces for reflection and discussion. Read the full social learning spaces case study here.

“To provide the proper space for teaching and learning, we need more than a single place — educational activities are organic; they ebb and flow. What we really require is a complex of spaces — interconnected and related; designed to support learning.”

William Ditto, Learning Spaces (2006)


In-between Spaces

A view from above of the inbetween space by the stairway in an atrium at a campus in the City of Glasgow College.
A view from above of the atrium at the City Campus of the City of Glasgow College

Some spaces create valuable exchanges and connections for educational buildings. They can create a sense of community, transition between spaces or defy convention altogether. Where Social Learning Spaces foster intentional shared activity, in-between spaces are more passive and yet can support social learning in the process. Read the full in-between spaces case study here.

“Flexibility is key in providing a building which can adapt to changing circumstances and technologies.”

Mark Dawson, Project Architect FVC, Reiach and Hall Architects

STEM Spaces

Traditionally, STEM and vocational training spaces are often designed to be separate to the main building of a college or FE institution. Here, our case studies show how exemplars took a ‘blended’ approach to their layouts, connecting them to the rest of the campus. Elsewhere we look at the importance of innovation from institutions in this area to tackling economic growth. Read more in the full STEM spaces case study here.

Engines in a teaching space and students observe a demonstration in the background at City of Glasgow College.
An engineering teaching space at City of Glasgow College

Further Information

Pulling exemplars from these aspects of design has shown us the importance of these spaces to learners and teachers alike. We need to meet and surpass current industry standards to ensure the lessons learned in these spaces stay relevant for decades to come.

Adaptability is important to these spaces, as is opportunity for socialising, discussion, personal development and the ensuing identity the spaces can provide.

For more resources:

About A&DS Case Studies

Our case studies series shows the benefits of good design in Scotland’s built environment. We highlight the processes behind our built environment as well as the finished result, to grow our collective understanding of good design practice. More of our case studies are available here. We want to grow this resource as much as we can. So if you have a question or comment about our Case Studies series, email us at

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