Learning from lockdown: What now for universities?

Christ Church Oxford refurb by Purcell_pic by Dennis Gilbert_View (7)

Covid has thrown the previously booming higher education sector into turmoil. It could be an opportunity, writes Nicola Hewes of Purcell

Of all the challenges facing businesses and building users in a post-pandemic “normal”, university estates are possibly under the most threat. Universities are founded on the physical coming together of minds; a collaborative environment of migratory scholars and students creating a community hub.

According to consulting firm London Economics, UK universities face a shortfall of at least £2.5bn in the next year due to projected drop in student enrolment. Beyond this, however, there will also be a loss of third-party income gained from conference and facility rental and, in some university towns, a loss of fee-paying tourists taking a peek at the hallowed halls of scholarly pursuit. With a reduction in university spending power, the knock-on effect is that the built environment sector is bracing for a pause on major capital projects, with estates more likely to benefit from adapting existing assets rather than moving ahead with new campus buildings.

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