Almost four out of every five universities in the UK are planning major building works over the next year. This was the finding of a survey by Wates that revealed that 79 per cent of institutions have works totalling £5 million or more in the pipeline.
With over 160 higher education centres across the UK, this sector is set to provide a major revenue stream for contractors across the country.
The drive for this seems apparent. Students are being asked to pay up to £9,000 for a year’s tuition. In return universities expect them to demand something of a “wow” factor when choosing their place of study while also wanting to know that the facilities they learn in are as up to date and well equipped as possible for an increasingly competitive market.
The financial impact of fees and living costs have also driven a trend to students staying in their home town to study. This may be driving a growing need for capacity in parts of the country that have not traditionally had large student populations.
Projects in the pipeline include a range of facilities. Loughborough University has begun the search for a contractor to build a new sport and exercise medicine centre at its East Park campus site.
The institution has started the pre-tendering process for the new centre, which is one of three planned for the UK to be run by a group of six university and hospital partners from Nottingham, Leicester and Loughborough.
The East Park campus centre will offer tailored training for health professionals and special gym facilities to help with the rehabilitation of athletes, sportspeople and disabled patients.
Furthermore, the centre will also provide accommodation and facilities for students and staff in the university’s health and biosciences department.
Not that universities are the only developers of student accommodation. Developer Downing submitted plans to Lambeth Council to build new student accommodation in south London.
The north-west based firm drew up proposals for a new 32-storey tower in Vauxhall include 572 student bedrooms, a gym and a 25m swimming pool.
University investment is also a growing part of urban regeneration thinking.
With the Olympics heading to East London, and with the opening of Europe’s largest urban shopping centre in Stratford, older parts of the local area are set to benefit from a new university campus.
As part of plans to regenerate areas not directly linked to the Olympics, Birkbeck is working in partnership with UEL to build a dedicated campus in Stratford. Located in the centre of Stratford which is dominated by an old shopping centre, University Square is set to open in autumn 2013. The building will rise to five floors and is designed around a large light-filled atrium. It will provide flexible teaching and performance spaces for over 3,400 students, as well as academic and administrative offices. Within the building there will be dedicated spaces for subjects including law, performing arts, dance, music and information technology.