Despite the increase in tuition fees, student numbers continue to expand in the higher education sector placing great pressure upon university teaching, research and residential infrastructure. There is now a considerable need to address past under-investment and provide additional space for teaching, research and student accommodation.
Total construction output in the Higher Education sector was estimated to be worth close to £4bn in 2017 (public and private work), and this is forecast to rise as the market for university construction work steadily increases. Investment continues to increase among UK universities as competition to attract overseas students has intensified. There is a particularly buoyant pipeline of ongoing new work at a number of universities as part of major long-term development programmes to increase provision for additional students, upgrade residential, teaching and research accommodation, and to build new campuses.
However, while the increased level of investment is a positive sign, many HEIs still have large amounts of non-residential space in poor condition. Because there are significant backlog repair and maintenance issues associated with many university buildings, many universities are being forced to decide whether to replace or refurbish a large number of their buildings. In the coming years, university estates may need to remodel their capital programmes to meet revised funding expectations with increasing emphasis on effective use of space, reuse of existing built assets and programmes that drive carbon reduction targets.
Going forward, higher education sector workloads are expected to be boosted by key long-term capital building programmes announced by universities as they seek to invest in research, teaching and accommodation facilities, compete to attract the best (and highest paying) students and prepare for the challenges that lie ahead as a result of Brexit.