Association of University Directors of Estate releases its annual report showcasing key estate statistics across the sector

  • University sector worth more than annual Government spend in Northern Ireland
  • Capital Expenditure over £2.5bn – highest annual spending on record
  • First Year University Students Nearly Equate To Bristol Population

The Association of University Directors of Estate (AUDE) today releases its annual report which reveals the growth trajectory of the sector with £28 billion of income received at the last count. This is the equivalent to the annual spend of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and eight billion more than the annual Government spend for Northern Ireland.

The report titled ‘Higher Education Estates Statistics Report 2015’ details the challenges and impacts of the estates of the higher education sector. The report, spanning 2013-2014, highlights the continuous investment into UK University estates:

  • The sector has a total income of £28 billion (an increase of £1 billion from last year’s report)
  • Spends £4 billion (excluding residential) per annum
  • Total revenue expenditure on property is almost £2 billion (£1,921,093,819)
  • Capital expenditure is over £2.5 billion – the highest annual spending recorded to date
  • Over a dozen institutions spent in excess of £40 million (four with expenditure over £100 million)

Capital expenditure measures include the refurbishment and upgrading of existing accommodation. This is driven by a need to provide more modern and suitable accommodation across campuses, so existing housing can function alongside more purpose built new accommodation.

The report also reveals that University estates continue to expand. UK Universities now occupy almost 21 million m2 (20,945,388m2) of space, an expansion of just over half a million (503,949m2) within a year. This includes five institutions with estates that are larger than 500,000m2 (GIA), a dozen that range from 200,000 to 400,000m2 and roughly half of the sector operating with an estate of less than 100,000m2.

In an ever growing competitive market, the report demonstrates that the UK continues to retain excellent students across the country. The university population is well over one million, with 1,698,452 students in UK Universities. Maintaining attraction is a key trend, 2013/14 saw 412,581 first year students attend university, nearly the equivalent of the population of the City of Bristol (442,474). The data also notes that within the student population, 100,000 first year students study from home, with over 250,000 of 412,581 UK students leaving home to attend university.

The higher education estates sector has faced substantial changes over the past three years. For the first time, 2015 saw government control of student numbers abolished. Institutions are now able to set their own size and recruitment objectives. At present the pool of available students is decreasing, and will continue to decline for a further six years before the number of 18 year olds starts to rise again. This has led to increased competition within the market.
Improvement and striving for excellence in times of change is a key theme throughout the report. Other focuses include:

  • The sector continues to make great strides in relation to efficiency and effectiveness with property costs remaining broadly stable and income per m2 increasing
  • Energy continues to rise in importance as an element of cost. The report highlights that emissions per m2 have been slowly reducing over the last six years, suggesting that the environmental sustainability policies that institutions are investing in are resulting in reduced carbon output
  • Overseas recruitment will continue to be an important part of some institutions’ strategies

Furthermore, driving efficiency, reducing costs, improving service and increasing the commercial income from the estate remain key challenges for all Estates Directors. This is because the student experience is inextricably linked to the quality and effectiveness of the estate. As a result protecting capital spend, and persuading governing body’s to continue to invest, is going to require careful thought and debate so that inward investment continues and the estate remains on the agenda for all nationwide institutions.

Sue Holmes, AUDE Chair and Director of Estates and Facilities at Oxford Brookes University, said: ‘The University sector has faced monumental changes over the past year. The trebling of tuition fees has changed the nature of the relationship between student and provider completely and for the first time ever student recruitment is no longer under government control, creating a competitive market. The report shows excellent practice throughout the sector to retain attraction and evolve whilst investment and operational costs are being maintained. The Higher Education Estates Statistics Report is a benchmark for all institutions and I am thrilled that AUDE is at the forefront of ensuring the high quality of the UK university estates and facilities management is upheld.’

Sir Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, comments: ‘I have had the pleasure of working with colleagues at AUDE for many years and their dedication to meeting efficiency challenges and striving for excellence can be seen in the statistics and analysis provided here. The sector as a whole is still faced with many challenges. As the market becomes ever more competitive – and the funding environment remains as challenging as ever – we will all continue to strive to improve the student experience and speaking to students has informed us that one key driver will be having excellent, well-maintained facilities.’

George Griffith, Global Workplace Solutions at CBRE who was involved in authoring the report, states: ‘The demographic of our nation is changing with the number of 18 year olds in decline. This poses a challenge for universities as the need to attract the best students and staff is heightened. It means UK university estates, in the short term at least, will need to work even harder to ensure they have first class, up to date facilities and services on offer to beat off fierce competition for the best and the brightest.’