Last September I wrote about the significant capital expenditure plans of the UK’s Higher Education Institutions, particularly a report on the plans that the 24 members of the Russell Group currently have to spend some £9 billion over the next four years.
Those plans cover a wide range of projects including new academic and research facilities and student accommodation but it is particularly interesting to analyse how much the demands and needs of current and future students are shaping development across the sector. Indeed, the Association of University Directors of Estate, “AUDE”, identified this trend in their own Higher Education Estates Statistics Report 2014 commenting that increased spending by the sector “… is likely to be driven by the need to provide an outstanding environment to ensure continued recruitment of students … no doubt linked to student expectations as tuition fees have risen”. This trend is manifesting itself in a number of ways and it is notable that, whilst institutions are investing significantly in new buildings as well as renovating existing facilities, new approaches to learning are also being embraced. The traditional lecture format is being challenged in favour of the provision of more informal learning facilities. As the AUDE report also recognises, new ways of accessing learning material are being recognised by the greater provision of “… social learning space as an adjunct to more traditional learning or library resources”.
The times they are a-changing!