Issued: 25 October 2019
The Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE) has published its annual Estates Management Report (EMR) 2019. The report highlights intra-sector trends, including the concentration of capital expenditure in one segment of the sector and expresses concerns about the level of spending on estates maintenance. This might prompt Governors and governing bodies to reflect on how they balance immediate and longer-term priorities.
Using data for the 2017-18 academic year the EMR considers the context to estates developments as cross the sector and provides levels and ten-year trends broken-down by four segments, namely:
- Small teaching institutions
- Large teaching institutions
- Research intensive institutions
- Large research institutions
Using the segmented data, it is possible to identify a number of intra-sector patterns of change and enable peer assessment. The EMR also includes ranks every institution by a range of variables (e.g. Total income, size of estate and capital expenditure).
Across the four segments, significant differences in the patterns of student recruitment are identified. Large research institutions have increased their student numbers, while large teaching institutions have seen their numbers remain broadly static over the last five years. These changes have occurred during a period when there has been a reduction in young people in the population.
A growing proportion of students are choosing to attend university by living at home with a parent or guardian. The EMR does not consider the reasons for this increase in the number of commuting students. Governors and governing bodies may wish to consider the extent to which this trend is discernible for their institution.
The growth in the number of young people in the population from 2021 is highlighted, and the question raised as to whether institutions are likely to be able to accommodate the projected increases student numbers in the period to 2030-31? The report notes that there are significant time-lags in commissioning additional space.
There are significant differences in the levels of capital investment between the four institutional segments. The 20 large research-intensive institutions collectively accounting for just over half of the sector’s total spend of £3.5bn.
Despite spending on new facilities, space per staff and student FTE is falling for both large research and research-intensive segments. Small teaching institutions – probably due to their specialist nature – have more space per student than institutions in the other segments.
Concerns are expressed about the level of spending on maintenance across the sector. Faced by financial pressures, it is all too easy to delay spending on maintenance, creating a back-log in the future. The authors of the report suggest there is anecdotal evidence that this is happening.
The final part of the EMR examines the residential estate. The increasing provision of student accommodation by the private sector is noted. A detailed list of private sector student housing providers and the number of bed-spaces under their management are also included in the report.
Governors and governing bodies are stewards of the institution of which they are responsible. In discharging their responsibilities, they need to carefully balance education and financial needs, mindful of the immediate and longer-term. In the immediate-term, this may mean prioritising financial security, rather than longer-term investments in the institution’s resources to enable future growth and development. In recent years those institutions that have found achieving their target student numbers difficult may have been particularly exercised by this challenge.
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