An estates strategy? Why take the time? DfE’s Rider Levett Bucknall explains why…
These are exciting times for the further education sector. With the government’s commitment that it will be spending almost £2 billion to upgrade the entire estate, the sector is finally getting some well-deserved attention and investment.
One of the priorities for colleges now is to be in the best position to take advantage of this investment and one of the ways to support this is by developing a robust estates strategy. So, we were really pleased to be invited to present on the subject at the recent AoC Funding Conference.
We believe that a college that takes the time to review its estate and really understand its needs in order to deliver its academic strategy and create fully developed plans – both in terms of building improvements and larger scale capital projects – will be well placed to access any funding pot when it is released.
A well thought out estates strategy also provides many more benefits in addition to facilitating funding applications and identifying investment priorities. It focuses on value for money through reducing operating and maintenance costs, improving space utilisation to release funds from surplus estate and identifying efficiencies. It will ensure the college complies with all legislative requirements and protects any public sector investment in the estate. It will provide a route map for the delivery of sustainability targets and manage environmental impact. Ultimately, it enables the estate to fully support the educational aims of the college, as well as improving the well – being of staff and students.
Where do you start in developing a considered estates strategy?
At its simplest, the strategy should look at three basic questions:
Where do we want to be?
This should focus on defining the academic strategy of the college and any other strategic goals
Where are we now?
Collating baseline data and condition of estate e.g. a multi-faceted, holistic appraisal of the estate
How do we get there?
By overlaying the outputs of the “Where do we want to be?” and the “Where are we now?” questions, we can identify a strategy, action plan and funding solutions to achieve the college’s goals.
A robust approach is required to working through the questions, as they are not without their challenges. Areas such as timescales, stakeholder engagement, decision making protocols, considering IT infrastructure, ring fencing funding and a culture of continuous improvement are integral to ensuring the success of the project. A robust approach will also help inform key recommendations for design from smart buildings to future proofing.
Once worked through, the resulting output and analysis from these questions will not only provide you with a roadmap to help you develop the optimum learning environment, but also secure an estate to the meet the challenges of your college going forward.
Rider Levett Bucknall is currently working for the Department of Education (DfE) on its Condition Data Collection Survey of the college estate across the UK.
For further details please contact:
Partner – National Head of Education
Rider Levett Bucknall