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Project pipeline: Universities set to build big

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New research has revealed that two fifths of universities plan to start major construction projects in the next two years,

The effects of government policy on university estates strategies by construction company Wates also found more than 90 per cent of institutions planned to invest significantly in learning facilities, such as libraries, laboratories, and communal study areas.

According to the AJ’s sister publication Construction News, 87 per cent intended to improve their core teaching facilities, including lecture theatres and laboratories.

Of those surveyed, 40 per cent said they were planning to start work on major construction projects worth more than £5million within the next two years.

Wates universities lead Ian Vickers said: ‘Nowadays, estates strategies must be carefully crafted to align with students’ needs and expectations of a good, useful education that will equip them to succeed in the wider world.

‘Our research reveals that, as they deal with a whole variety of competing demands, estates directors must go back to basics: focusing on teaching and learning.’

Since the funding reforms last year, student fees are now the largest source of income for universities in England and Wales, leading to greater competition for students.

‘Attracting and retaining students is of paramount importance to a university’s continued financial health, and estates strategies must be geared towards addressing this fact,’ Vickers added.

Wates also found an increased sense of optimism from university estates directors about their future building plans.

Almost a third of university estates directors expect their overall budget to increase in 2013/14, while just under half expect there to be little or no change in their budget for construction work.

Mr Vickers added that universities are increasingly investing in research facilities, with almost 60 per cent of estates directors listing research facilities as a key focus of their next major construction project – a 20 per cent increase on last year.

“This is encouraging for higher education and for the UK economy as a whole.

“However, universities seem to be isolated in driving things forward on this front – they need real support from government and business,” he said.

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