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University building boom in battle to win students

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New research shows that universities are pumping cash into their estates, with nearly 80 per cent set to spend more than £5 million on new projects by 2013

The survey of 52 higher education institutes by contractor Wates revealed that universities were ‘making significant investments’ in their building stock in a bid to attract more students in the face of reduced public spending and fewer applications.

The findings back up the AJ’s own investigation in February which uncovered that practices were reporting a resurgence of work in the higher education sector despite the drop in the number of applications to university (AJ 30.01.12).

Ian Vickers of Wates 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 many are already on the front foot and are investing in first-class buildings and facilities in order to attract students.’

Students expect a quality of experience that reflects the high price they are paying

He added: ‘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.’

According to Wates (see full report attached), almost a third of universities were also considering large-scale commercial tie-ups such as on-campus science parks or hotels, with a further 31 per cent open to such deals in the future.

In recent weeks the AJ has reported on an increasing number of tenders for new university work, including a call for architects for a £25 million graduate centre at Queen Mary University, east London and a tender for a £15 million training facility at Loughborough University.





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