Manchester university is struggling to put together a £22m-a-year framework after being swamped with about 600 applications

The institution’s estates department put the two-year design services framework out to tender in June and intended to have it in place by November.

But the timetable has been forced back to allow procurement officers to “wade through” hundreds of submissions – at least three times as many as it had expected.

Paul Williams, the university’s design services unit manager, said: “We are still some way off understanding just how many applications we’ve had, but it is fair to say we’ve been inundated. The thought of having to wade through them all is not filling me with glee.”

Jonathan Griffiths, business development director at local architect Leach Rhodes Walker, said: “It’s a sign of the times. Architects are bidding for everything at the moment and that doesn’t mean they’ve got the necessary expertise – people used to working in the commercial sector are trying to get a share of public work.”

The framework will cover eight disciplines, including architecture, cost consultancy and project management; projects covered range from £2,000 to £10m.