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University developments booming, claims builder
A BOOM in university developments is under way around the country, according to research by the builders behind a £116m revamp of a Southampton University campus.
Wates Construction found 89 per cent of higher education institutions will carry out a £5m-plus construction project within the next year.
A survey of 52 higher education estates professionals by Wates showed that attracting more students is the main motive for more than half of the planned big projects at UK campuses.
The most common facilities being upgraded are for teaching and research, as well as student accommodation, to provide a magnet for potential undergraduates.
The research comes as Wates undertakes a major scheme to build a centre of excellence at the University of Southampton’s former Boldrewood campus on the corner of The Avenue and Burgess Road, which was demolished in 2011.
A new Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI) is being created through a partnership between the university and Lloyd’s Register, which is moving its London-based marine arm to Southampton. The new research facility is expected to be finished by November 2013.
According to the Wates study, over two-thirds of universities are increasing room for more international and postgraduate students, who can be big earners for universities due to higher fees. Only 30 per cent are adapting their property for distance learning, a cheaper way of learning.
A third are considering large-scale commercial tie-ups such as on-campus science parks or hotels, and 98 per cent are already letting out space to, for example, community or business groups. Forty-three per cent believe they are not making efficient use of their estate, with only eight per cent saying they use their space efficiently.
Ian Vickers, universities lead for Wates Construction, said: “With public funding cut by 12.6 per cent and student applications down by 8.7 per cent for the next academic year, it is a challenging time for the UK’s universities.
“However, our study shows that many people 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.
“Our survey shows that universities cannot, and will not, stand still. With the market becoming more competitive and international, estates directors need to do more for less. If the UK is to remain a world leader in higher education at a time of constrained funding, innovative solutions will be required to extract the maximum value from new and existing assets.”