In the midst of the general election the higher education sector is facing considerable changes. However, the university estate continues to be a major feature as to why students choose the university they do. It is AUDE’s role to ensure the facilities we are responsible for continue to be world class. Our mandate, to attract and retain the finest students and staff from across the UK and internationally, is more important than ever in increasingly changeable political times.
One of the biggest challenges we face is Brexit. The negatives of Brexit are well known. EU nationals may be charged tuition fees at more expensive international rates. This may mean that a substantial percentage of the student population is deterred from studying at British universities. Some academics have warned that there is also a danger that British students would risk becoming more ‘insular’ and less exposed to European cultures through the impact on exchange programmes. There are fears that pioneering British academics may go abroad.
In terms of the impact on the university estate, there are a number of potential outcomes:
- The research intensive universities will continue with their development programmes as they are likely to have a mature investment plan and have already modelled the impact of Brexit
- If recruitment pressures do ultimately surface within the research intensive universities, then there is a risk that recruitment could be impacted elsewhere in the sector leading to a re-appraisal of development plans at the most affected institutions. Judgements will be made in terms of whether this is seen as a ‘blip’, or something more terminal
- It is possible that some universities may see the benefit of establishing a European campus or creating a formal association with an established university to overcome the outcome of Brexit
However, investment continues at record levels and the university estate is continuing to work hard to deliver increased value for money and AUDE is committed to supporting this, as evidenced in its recent report on ‘Demonstrating HE Efficiency and Effectiveness – AUDE KPIs and Case Studies’.
The challenge for the sector remains avoiding the polarisation of the student experience and this can be achieved by having a balanced capital and maintenance investment programme.
The sector will continue to do ‘more with less’ and will continue to create innovative solutions for delivering the highest quality and innovative estates. I am keen to continue to build upon AUDE’s many strengths, cultivated over 25 years. We have been planning some changes to the organisation’s constitution with the specific aim of increasing membership and the relevance of AUDE to its members. I am also looking forward to strengthening our engagement with members and solidifying our role as the ‘voice’ of estate and facilities management professionals in higher education within the UK and elsewhere.