Universities invest £3bn in estates

University estates invest over £3bn in new buildings as performance reaches a peak

The Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE) has published its annual Estates Management Report (EMR), developed in collaboration with global real estate advisor CBRE.

After gathering and analysing data reflecting the key activities and targets of estates management teams in more than 160-member universities across the UK, it is evident that the overall performance level of university estates is better than ever. With almost 1.7 million students now dependent on the quality of their learning environments, we should aim at nothing less.

AUDE’s established KPIs measure Efficiency, Quality, Value and Sustainability to give member institutions a rounded view, and the picture is of strong and responsible management. And that’s important – not just to the universities themselves but to the entire economy.

As the report highlights, universities now spend more than £3bn a year on capital projects as well as a similar figure on repairs, maintenance, energy, cleaning and security. Such a large spend can come as a surprise to those not familiar with the sector, but this kind of ongoing investment in the higher education estate creates a positive ripple effect around localities from Falmouth in the south-west to Inverness in the north. The value of this investment to the local and national economy is truly significant – and not just in the construction phase. Universities are increasingly significant generators of economic activity above and beyond the teaching and research that they undertake. To this end this level of investment is a hugely important aspect of the country’s economic prosperity.

The EMR benchmarks universities against each other and enables comparisons to be drawn with similar institutions – whether by size or research/teaching focus. It throws a spotlight across many of the big themes that universities and estates teams are considering in 2018. These include: student experience, from learning spaces to residential accommodation through student wellbeing provision; quality vs cost within a framework of compliance – the daily juggling act for AUDE members at a time of continuing downward pressure on costs; and the role of the estate as a physical environment – in staff attraction and retention at a time of increasing international competition.

Jane White, AUDE’s Executive Director, commented: “The EMR gives the sector hard facts and accurate data at a time of real uncertainty. It provides the information background to help the sector make strategic decisions in estates management. This year’s report makes it clear that the performance of the university estate is as strong as it has ever been, and we should recognise and acknowledge the immense efforts of AUDE member teams across the country in delivering that.”

George Griffith, Head of University Consulting at CBRE, who co-authored the report with AUDE, said: “The University sector is a largely hidden gem within the UK property industry. Across the sector, over £3bn has been invested in the last year in new buildings, with a similar amount spent annually on running the estate. This looks set to continue, providing improving estates across the country. The insights in the report highlight how university estate continues to improve in quality, and how investment is broadly spread across UK cities.”

Keith Lilley, AUDE Chair and Director of Estates, Facilities Management and IT at the University of Sheffield, added: “AUDE creates an environment for its members in which estates professionals can ponder complexity and develop the right solutions, and work such as our annual Estates Management Report is part of that professional service. It is an essential tool within the full range of support that AUDE offers to its members. The AUDE Annual Conference and Big Conversation events are unmissable parts of the HE estates management calendar, while AUDE’s Sustainability Leadership Scorecard helps senior leadership teams understand the multi-faceted challenge of delivering against the sustainability agenda in their university.”