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Surrey Uni scraps £1m turnover hurdle for student union bidders

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The University of Surrey has abandoned a £1 million minimum turnover requirement on its student union revamp following a complaint to the Cabinet Office

The prestigious university in Guildford relaunched the high-profile design tender last week (13 April) without any limit on the size of turnover for applicants.

The turnaround came after RCKA director Russell Curtis reported the contract for the £3.8million job to the Cabinet Office’s ‘mystery shopper’ hotline for breaching EU rules.

Curtis complained that the original notice demanded a minimum turnover almost four times the £270,000 fee for the project - a requirement which contravened procurement rules that limit the turnover threshold to double any stated fee.   

He said: ’It’s a victory for small practices that the University of Surrey has reassessed their procurement for what is a really interesting project. This isn’t about punishing public organisations for bad procurement, but instead about encouraging them to do it in a fairer, more accessible way.’

Curtis continued: ’The Student Union refurbishment presents an exciting opportunity for practices of all sizes, and it’s only fair that the assessment criteria places more emphasis on design quality than turnover. Credit is due to the university for recognising this and restarting the procurement accordingly.’

Colin Davies, university procurement director, commented: ‘The original OJEU was subject to query by the Crown Commercial Service on a technical issue around possible breach of new (2015) Procurement Regulations.

‘Having reviewed in line with this feedback, the university decided that as there was time to re-advertise, it would do so with amended wording, notifying those that expressed interest accordingly.’

He continued: ‘In the new Pre-Qualification Questionnaire we have not specified a minimum supplier turnover as this is not a requirement. At no time did the Crown Commercial Services tell the University that we must restart the tender process.’

The winning team will deliver an ‘extensive refurbishment and adaptation’ of the university’s existing 1972 student union headquarters – known as Union House.

Designed by Maguire and Murray Architects, the 3,100m² building on the eastern side of the university’s Stag Hill campus features bars, cafes, lounges, performance areas and offices.

According to the contract notice, the project – which is planned to complete in 2018 – will involve ‘extension, adaptation and refurbishment over three floors’.

Up to five teams will be shortlisted for the latest contract – valued at between £175,000 and £300,000 – and the winning team will develop the scheme from RIBA Stage 0 to 6.

Established in 1966, the University of Surrey specialises in science, engineering, medicine and business and now hosts more than 14,000 students.

Originally known as the Battersea College of Technology, the institution had been based next to Battersea Park since 1891 before relocating outside of London.

The majority of buildings on the Stag Hill campus – located in northwest Guildford next to the town’s cathedral – were designed by BDP and completed between 1968 and 1972.

The new deadline for applications is 12noon on 9 May.

How to apply

View the contract notice for more information

Contact details

University of Surrey
Stag Hill

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