Welsh higher education institutions plan to spend Pounds 178 million over the next five to ten years on capital projects but their outlay on building maintenance is projected to decline substantially over the next few years.
A review of institutions' estates strategies by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales has found that many institutions are determined to rationalise their estates and improve their use of space.
Capital project priorities include building and refurbishing teaching buildings (54 per cent of total spend); libraries (8 per cent); sports facilities (10 per cent); research accommodation (8 per cent) and residential accommodation (8 per cent).
More institutions have introduced planned maintenance programmes. Over the next five years, Welsh institutions estimate a total outlay of Pounds 53 million a year on estates maintenance. But the council adds: "It is also apparent that the budget for maintenance is being reduced by institutions."
Financial forecast returns show a fall in long-term planned maintenance from Pounds 12.9 million in 1998-99 to Pounds 8.7 million in 2002-03, a projected fall in spending of 33 per cent.
The council warns: "Any such reduction in maintenance expenditure could endanger the future viability of institutions. They would be forced to operate in deteriorating and unsafe accommodation." Institutions complain of "unsuitable" buildings, split sites and planning constraints.
The council believes the preparation of estates strategies by institutions represents a "valuable discipline" for the sector, drawing together information on building, running and maintenance costs, energy efficiency and space management.
But on the basis of the returns for its latest review the council believes institutions could do better in drawing together such information: "More emphasis needs to be placed by institutions on clear and informative estates data ... estate strategies need to clearly link to financial forecasts and strategic plans."