Cost model: Universities need to answer tough questions about their priorities

UCLan Student Centre and Main Square

Aecom’s Rory Armstrong and Steven Jenkins explain what’s happening in the tertiary education sector and offer a cost model of a typical building

UCLan Student Centre and Main Square

01 / Introduction

In the decade before covid, the UK’s tertiary education sector enjoyed an upward trajectory of funding and capital investment. Much of the rise in expenditure over those years was sourced from an expansion in student numbers, as well as from a growing proportion of international students, who pay significantly higher fees to study in the UK than do their domestic counterparts. A raft of major infrastructure projects were delivered, and the sector was active in construction across the country.

However, with many students confined to their homes in 2020 and 2021, and with prospective international students unable to travel to study in the UK, universities were left with a question mark over their capital funding.

As a result, a number of projects were put on hold over the past three years, as the needs and priorities of academic institutions were recalibrated. Universities were tasked with answering the existential question of what their post-pandemic estates should look like and what they should provide.

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