Data from every university in the country is included in a new report that should prove invaluable for those wanting an innovative estate strategy

Sue Holmes

Everyone knows that the reach and impact of the university estates sector is sizeable, but if you were to compare it to the turnover of the UK’s biggest companies, where do you think it would stand?

It turns out that it would sit just off the podium at a very respectable fourth place, just behind Tesco (£63bn), Vodafone (£38.3bn) and SSE (£30.6bn) according to a new report by the Association of University Directors of Estate (AUDE).

The report titled Higher Education Estates Statistics Report 2014, written by CBRE and compiled from statistics completed by every university in the country, shows the higher education (HE) sector has a turnover of £27.3bn, spends £2bn (excluding residential) a year and occupies 26 million m2 (280 million ft2). In terms of size, UK universities occupy an area just shy of the NHS estate (30 million m2, 322 million ft2) but more than two and a half times the governments own estate (10 million m2, 107 million ft2).

The higher education sector has a turnover of £27.3bn, spends £2bn (excluding residential) a year and occupies 26 million m2

The report also shows how many people use our university estates and facilities - 2.4 million members of the public which includes local communities in a range of capacities in addition to students and staff. As well as laboratories, lecture halls and accommodation, the sector boasts impressive learning, teaching and research facilities, social spaces, entertainment venues, sports facilities, restaurants and cafes, theatres, libraries, hospitality and accommodation for start-up companies and new enterprises.

Energy and emissions is another key focus of the report and with costs expected to continue to rise, the sector is at the forefront for carbon reduction strategies. The sector as a whole continues to innovate and lead the way in new developments, such as the zero carbon residences at Hertfordshire.

This is an interesting time for the sector as the tuition fees increase, reduction of income into universities and student numbers fluctuations pose increasing challenges for estate directors. As revenue costs increase these directors continually have to provide more for less, providing further efficiencies and more effective ways of delivering.

For the moment the size of university estates remains stable with older buildings demolished and new buildings producing more balanced space. The fact that every HE institution in the country has voluntarily completed this makes this report an invaluable insight in understanding the pressures and best practice of the sector and will hopefully pave the way for further innovation and future success. It is fair to say that with the quality of the data produced, any university could prepare their estate strategy based purely on this.

The full report can be viewed and downloaded here

Sue Holmes is director of estates and facilities management at Oxford Brookes University and chair elect of AUDE