Students regard facilities as more important than reputation when choosing their university, research suggests.
A survey of 2,000 students, commissioned by the Association of University Directors of Estates, found that more than two-thirds (67 per cent) viewed facilities as a crucial part of their decision. Forty-seven per cent of students viewed reputation as important, while course and location - 79 per cent and 69 per cent, respectively - were the most significant factors.
Sue Holmes, chair of AUDE and director of estates and facilities management at Oxford Brookes University, commented that universities were “acutely aware” that facilities play an important role. “As the cap on student numbers is lifted and a free market emerges, having excellent, well-maintained facilities is going to be a key driver for all universities.”
But she warned that “in a climate where [institutions’] income is reducing in real terms, universities are having to become even more efficient to enable them to continue to invest”.
Last week, Times Higher Education reported how new research for the Higher Education Funding Council for England showed that many universities were struggling to fund capital spending, with a third seeing it drop by more than 25 per cent since 2008.
Andrew May, director of estates, hospitality and contract services at the University of Hertfordshire, said that government policy changes, including those mentioned by Ms Holmes, were making the “importance of estates and facilities more and more relevant" and he was not surprised that students viewed it as more important than reputation.
He said that Hertfordshire had invested heavily in response to these “drivers for change”, to give students a better campus environment and facilities.
“Reputation is important, of course it is. But if they come on an open day and get a great feeling from the facilities, that is going to count for a lot towards whether they go to that university,” he said.
“[Students] look at facilities and ask: ‘Am I really going to be able to learn and grow here? Is this going to be the catalyst to help me move away from mum’s apron string and create a new life?’”