An immediate investment of more than £5 billion to modernise teaching buildings, libraries and information technology provision is vital, according to a report published yesterday by Universities UK.
The report, Investment in the Infrastructure for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education , was commissioned from J. M. Consulting by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Universities UK and the Standing Conference of Principals.
It calls for the government to invest in modernising teaching infrastructure that has been crumbling since the 1960s. It recommends a capital funding scheme to provide the £5.1 billion needed for investment in infrastructure. It also suggests a £100 million project-based scheme to address the evolving needs of e-learning and widening participation. Finally, it recommends a funding council initiative that would clarify the responsibility institutions have for planning and investing in their infrastructures and provide support.
Baroness Warwick, chief executive of UUK, said: "Investment in infrastructure is critical to ensure our universities are able to attract the best students and staff, from the UK and elsewhere, and that they continue to be able to produce employable graduates ready to contribute fully to the UK's increasingly knowledge-based economy. Without this investment, the UK's leading position in a globally competitive market must be in doubt.
"It also puts at risk the government's target for widening participation. Without an adequate infrastructure that is fit for purpose, this report poses the challenging question of how UK universities and colleges will attract the additional student and staff numbers required to meet this target."
Roderick Floud, president of UUK, said: "The generic teaching infrastructure underpins all university activity. It is crucial to the success of the sector, and without additional investment on the scale indicated, the foundations for future expansion will not be in place."
John Cater, chair of Scop, said: "This is not a wish list but a recognition of the very real difficulties faced by higher education institutions in managing deteriorating estates, and the critical need for investment in new subjects and teaching and learning methods and materials. If we are really serious about the future for higher education and its role in society, then we must invest now."