New area of Strathclyde University’s campus named after three influential women

Image Credit: University of Strathclyde via

By Yousuf Khursheed

Strathclyde’s Learning and Teaching Building, former Architecture Building and the connecting square have been named in honour of three women. 

The new Learning and Teaching building is set to open during the upcoming semester and will replace the former Strathclyde Student Union at 90 John Street. 

After a vote and consultation the new area was named. In an exclusive statement Vice President Inclusion Nesha Malone of Strath Union said:

“We are fortunate enough in Scotland that being a woman is no longer a barrier to accessing higher education, and there is nothing surprising about seeing an equal split between men and women on our campus. Yet, what we see when we walk around our campus does not reflect that balance. Until now, we have only ever had our buildings named after men, recognising men, celebrating men.

“This new building being named after three inspirational women is an important step in recognising and celebrating the impact that women have made to education and academia, and a move in the right direction for a truly diverse and progressive university.”

The Learning and Teaching building has been named the Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell Wing, the former Architecture Building is now the Professor Mary Dunn Wing and the open space between is the Professor Jackie Kay Plaza. 

Who is Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell?

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell is an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland, known for discovering pulsars. Pulsars are dense, highly magnetic, spinning stars. During Burnell’s PhD she was first to notice the signal given off by a pulsar and played a fundamental role in the discovery. Controversially her supervisor Antony Hewish received most of the praise. 

Burnell is the former president of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Institute of Physics. She won the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics which included £2.3 million in prize money. 

Burnell donated the entirety to fund women, under-represented ethnic minority and refugee students to become physics researchers. 

What facilities will the Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell Wing provide?

The Wing will be the new home of Strathclyde’s Student Union and will contain an advice hub and a debate chamber. 

Additionally the Wing will provide students with a coffee shop, café/bar, 300 person capacity venue, sports bar and bookable spaces for clubs. 

Who was Professor Mary Dunn?

The former Architecture building is now named after Mary Dunn, Strathclyde’s first female professor.

Born in Dumfriesshire in 1912, Dunn didn’t go to university until age 38. She attended the University of Glasgow, graduating with an MA in Economics.

In 1969 Dunn was appointed as the Director for Secretarial Studies at Strathclyde University, making her the university’s first female Head of Department. In 1975 she became Strathclyde’s first female professor.

During her time at Strathclyde, Dunn introduced a post graduate diploma in Secretarial Studies and taught students who were pursued by the BBC, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. 

Who is Professor Jackie Kay?

The area in between the Professor Mary Dunn Wing and the Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell Wing is now named after poet and novelist Professor Jackie Kay.  

Raised in Bishopbriggs, as a lesbian, half Scottish, half Nigerian adoptee, Kay experienced discrimination in her early life.

However whilst working as a cleaner for author John Le Carré, her passion for creative writing developed. 

Kay obtained an English Degree from the University of Stirling and released her first prize-winning collection of poems “The Adoption Papers” in 1991. 

Alongside other notable works, Kay produced “Lamplighter” a drama about the Atlantic slave trade. This was aired on BBC Radio Three on the two hundredth anniversary of the passing of the 1807 Slave Trade Act. 

Kay was the 2016-2021 Makar (Poet Laureate of Scotland) and is currently a Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University. 

Strath Union have now opened the doors to their part of the building – housed within the Dame Jocelyn Bell Wing. You can find more information on the building’s opening hours here.

**This story was originally published as part of our digital Freshers 2021 edition on 20/09/2021. Read the full edition here.**