Four-fifths of institutions set to spend at least £5m on estates ‘wow factor’

Almost eight in ten UK universities will embark on major capital projects worth more than £5 million in the next year as they face up to fiercer competition for students under the new regime.

April 6, 2012

A survey of 52 higher education estates professionals conducted by Wates Construction found 79 per cent of institutions intend to start such a major construction project in the next 12 months.

Universities appear to be spending big in preparation for the introduction of the new fees and funding regime in 2012-13, despite current government funding cuts and future losses of student numbers for many institutions in the wake of the reforms.

The survey found that “more than half” of those responding identified “the attraction of students as the strongest driver behind their next project”.

Almost a third (32 per cent) are considering large-scale commercial tie-ups such as on-campus science parks or hotels, with a further 31 per cent open to such a deal in the future.

More than two-thirds of respondents state that they are making changes in order to attract and accommodate more international and/or postgraduate students.

However, 43 per cent do not believe they are making efficient use of their current space.

Ian Vickers, universities lead for Wates, said: “Our survey shows that many are already on the front foot and are investing in first-class buildings and facilities in order to attract students and talent while improving efficiency and controlling costs.

“Students are being asked to pay more than ever before for a university degree. That means they expect a quality of experience that reflects the high price they are paying.

“In order to remain competitive, universities are therefore looking to deliver modern facilities that have the ‘wow factor’ while also encouraging more efficient and collaborative use of space.”

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