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  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • The size of the sector
  • Cost and income analysis
  • Space management
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Condition and repair
  • Annex A Space calculations
  • Annex B Glossary and abbreviations

Executive summary


1.   This publication reports on the findings of the Estate Management Statistics Service (EMS) during 2006-07 for the 2005-06 financial year. It focuses on:

  • the changing profile of the UK higher education estate over the past five years
  • major trends over the past five years, with particular emphasis on:
    • the condition of the higher education estate
    • environmental sustainability.

2.   We recommend that senior management teams and estates committees consider this report in the context of their estates and use EMS to assist them in developing their strategies and operational planning.

Key points

Cost and income analysis

3.   Between 2001-02 and 2005-06 income per m2 of net space rose by over 32 per cent, well above the rate of inflation and also above the increase in revenue expenditure on estates over the same period. As a result, the average institution was spending 0.7 per cent less of its total income on estates in 2005-06 than it was in 2001-02. This gives institutions scope to increase investment in the quality of their estates or in other areas.

4.   Despite a 1.7 per cent decrease in the total amount of space in poor condition in the sector, from 8.75 million m2 to 8.6 million m2 between 2001-02 and 2005-06, evidence suggests that the repair backlog for many institutions is becoming less affordable, particularly in Scotland and Wales.

Space management

5.   Non-residential space productivity has improved markedly between 2001-02 and 2005-06, with the amount of non-residential space per full-time equivalent (FTE) student falling by about 12 per cent to 7.9 m2. However, analysis using a model created by London Economics for the UK Higher Education Space Management Group suggests that significant further efficiency gains are achievable - potentially leading to a reduction of up to 2.2 million m2 of non-residential space at UK level. The ability to realise savings at institutional level will depend on the reasons for divergence from the model.

6.   Where remodelling or modernisation are required there are likely to be substantial upfront costs, but removing excess space offers potential revenue savings of up to £560 million per year. For example, rationalisation in the amount of staff office space may generate savings of £367 million per year. In view of this, we recommend that HEIs consider whether they can make space efficiencies and, if so, how surplus space can be released. There are strong financial and environmental imperatives for the efficient use of space and, given the scale involved, it is recommended that further work is done to understand the issue at sector level.

Environmental sustainability

7.   The profile of the sector's environmental performance has grown beyond recognition over the past five years, but the sector is still some way short of having a comprehensive and robust set of metrics to measure this. In the meantime, there are some encouraging signs of improvement across the sector. In particular, water consumption per student FTE has seen an improvement of 13 per cent between 2001-02 and 2005-06. Waste recycling rates, however, lag behind the UK domestic sector.

8.   In the medium term, further rationalisation of space may have the biggest positive impact on environmental performance.

Condition and repair

9.   The condition of most higher education estates continues to improve steadily - the median percentage of non-residential space in good condition rose by approximately 6 per cent between 2001-02 and 2005-06 - but the picture is not consistent across all institutions. A tier of institutions with estates in a poorer than average condition appears to be developing and this may warrant further investigation.

10.   In addition, further analysis of condition weighted by gross internal area demonstrates that non-residential condition is not improving as quickly as was previously assumed. Up to 35 per cent of the sector's non-residential space may still be in grade C and D condition (that is, the lower two of the four categories used by EMS to classify condition). Improving this space presents a significant challenge to the sector.

11.   A glossary of key terms and abbreviations used in this report is at Annex B.

Date: 1 November 2008

Ref: 2008/41

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, Heads of universities in Northern Ireland
Heads of SFC-funded higher education institutions, Heads of HEFCW-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Strategic planning; Finance; Estates

Enquiries should be directed to:

Andrew Smith at HEFCE, tel 0117 931 7001, e-mail

Derek Horsburgh at SFC, tel 0131 313 6649, e-mail

Chris Cowburn at HEFCW, tel 02920 682 247, e-mail

Billy Lyttle at the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland
tel 02890 257408, e-mail