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£9m gift for new library

 November 29, 2013 | Simon Jenkins

The University’s biggest-ever donation will support the creation of a state-of-the-art library on our city centre campus. The library will be named after Irvine Laidlaw, who studied economics at Leeds in the early 1960s – and whose £9m gift is supporting this major development.

The Laidlaw Library, now under construction on Woodhouse Lane, will become a new focus for undergraduate life on campus, providing inspiring study spaces and the high-end technology needed by 21st century students. It will give easy access to the printed texts and electronic resources which are central to the first two years of undergraduate study, putting at students’ fingertips the materials required to support modern higher education

The four-storey building, due to open in the spring of 2015, will also provide a new home for some of the University’s outreach work with the local community.

Lord Laidlaw has been a donor to the University for some time, providing scholarships for students from less privileged backgrounds and enabling the brightest undergraduates to join major research projects. He traces this philosophy to his time at Leeds: “Being a student was an eye-opening experience for me – though I didn’t get a very good degree!

“I came from a quite privileged background and at that time Leeds was very much a working class university. As Grants and Welfare Secretary for the students’ union I was able to help people who were facing serious money issues – and I found out about deprivation in a way I’d not experienced before.

“This experience showed me how privileged I was and it stayed with me. I have been very fortunate; my business has been a great success, but success is not just about talent or ability. It’s also about encouragement, whether from the family, school or university, and we need to do more to nurture people’s ability.

“The plans for this magnificent new library have given me the opportunity to really cement my connection to an institution which gave me so much. I am looking forward to visiting Leeds soon and seeing it taking shape.”

Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands expressed the University’s gratitude: “This is exciting news. Irvine Laidlaw is a committed supporter of the University and the library will become a permanent reminder of his generosity.”

“Despite many technological advances since he and I were undergraduates, the library remains a fundamental part of student life. The Laidlaw Library will set a new benchmark for universities across the country – with inspiring study spaces and a state-of-the-art resource centre, it will be a new landmark on Woodhouse Lane. It will also be a bold statement of a university which is fully equipped for the modern world and facing the future with confidence.”

Above Alumnus Irvine Laidlaw talks about why he supports the University of Leeds Campaign.