Transformational philanthropy will establish innovative new building at the University of Exeter

The University of Exeter has received a philanthropic pledge from His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah, to co-fund the construction of a new development on Exeter’s Streatham campus. The proposed building will extend from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies (IAIS) which His Highness has funded previously. New spaces will enhance Exeter’s international reputation in Area Studies, and in particular its work in culture, languages and heritage.

Uniquely, the facilities will incorporate academics and students from across Exeter’s three faculties, with a particular research focus on the Middle East region and the Global South.  New spaces will foster interdisciplinary studies related to climate and environmental management; peace, mediation and stabilisation; and health and wellbeing in the Arabian Gulf and beyond.  The building will benefit from a design that will facilitate collaborative research and education and underpin Exeter’s engagement with institutions across Sharjah.

The Al Qasimi Building will also be a new focal point for Exeter’s student community.  It will provide an inclusive space for all students to gather, interact and learn in a setting that celebrates diversity, interconnectivity and sustainability.  Central to the plans are the use and restoration of the listed walled gardens between the IAIS and the historic Reed Hall, and the recreation of a ‘lost’ paradise garden.

The building will provide panoramic views West across the campus to the Whitcombe Way Valley Park and Exwick Woods beyond and will be designed to a low carbon construction standard and achieve Passivhaus certification requirements. Once all necessary permissions are granted – likely to be in 2024 – construction will start immediately with the building anticipated to open in 2027.

The University’s relationship with Sharjah has extended over four decades and includes teaching and research collaborations in the Humanities, Education and Science.

In 2022, the University announced a ground-breaking partnership with the University of Khorfakkan to help construct a new marine research facility in Sharjah. Together the universities of Khorfakkan and Exeter will develop marine programmes that will position the emirate as the regional hub for the delivery of the UN’s ‘30×30’ commitment to conserve the world’s oceans and build capacity by developing the next generation of Emirati and GCC marine scientists.

His Highness Sheikh Sultan is the 18th Ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah in a chain of Al Qasimi Rulers since 1600 AD.  He has been at the forefront of the emirate’s cultural, economic and social development and also played a significant role in promoting cultural interaction and dialogue among nations at local, regional and international levels.  His Highness is an alumnus of the University of Exeter, graduating with a PhD in History (Distinction) in 1985.

Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter, said: I wish to extend my utmost gratitude to His Highness Sheikh Sultan.  This extraordinary act of philanthropy is transformational for our students and our staff, and its scale and ambition form the centrepiece of our 2030 Strategy.  It will help extend and deepen Exeter’s close relationship with Sharjah.  Once constructed, the Al Qasimi Building will be one of the finest buildings to be found on any university campus, and I look forward to welcoming His Highness back to Exeter to open the facility.