Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Budgeting Academic Space

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Budgeting Academic Space

Article excerpt

Policies, like learning spaces, can be designed for a desired behavior; a case study from Middle Tennessee State University.

There are many articles about space management, including those that discuss space calculations, metrics, and categories. Fewer articles discuss the space budgeting processes used by administrators to allocate space. The author attempts to fill this void by discussing her administrative experiences with Middle Tennessee State University's (MTSU) space budgeting processes and her observations of space budgeting practices at other institutions. The discussion of effective space budgeting practices and processes needed by administrators is the primary focus of this article.

Space Budgeting Considerations

Space budgeting involves allocating existing and future space to a function and a user. In many ways, space budgeting is similar to financial budgeting. As shown in figure 1 , the roles of the financial budget could easily be applied to the space budget.

Space information is scattered throughout various institutional documents, including mission and vision statements, policies, and master plans. Embedded in these plans are the implied priorities for space. Space plays a critical role in student choice and retention, faculty and staff recruitment and retention, and the ability to compete for grants and other external funding; therefore, space should be included in the strategie planning process (Temple and Barnett 2007). Additionally, space may create a sense of place fundamental to alumni giving decisions. Facility and campus master plans formally reflect these implied priorities and communicate the institution's approach to space decisions. As a result, these documents become very political and are often subject to a formal process.

The allocation of space may not always follow the stated policy. For example, a niche academic program with fewer majors and lower space utilization may receive additional resources, including space, due to the prestige the program brings to the institution. Allocation of space could also indicate the political strength of the parties involved. Accrediting bodies wield considerable bargaining power in negotiating better spaces, smaller class sizes, and other amenities for the academic programs they represent. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) is one of these strong lobbies as evidenced by the better facilities of most business schools. The following standard is from AACSB's Eligibility Procedures and Accreditation Standards for Business Accreditation: "The school's infrastructure fits its activities, e.g., campus-based learning, distance learning, research, and executive education. Classrooms, offices, laboratories, communications and computer equipment, and other basic facilities are adequate for high quality operations" (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business 2008, p. 28). Reactions to these pressures provide insights into the institution's culture.

Institutional Culture and Space Policies

As Schein (1992) states, a reason for studying culture is to assist in managing. The institution's culture (defined by the author as structure, enacted environments, perceptions, values, and traditions) influences the policies and processes for space budgeting. Administrators can obtain clues about an institution's culture by observing the location of units and the allocations of new space, reading university policies and marketing documents, tracing the funding of activities, and noting the traditions and celebrations. It is hoped that these will be congruent with the espoused values of the institution. For example, if the institution's football team obtains a new stadium or the athletic director has better office furniture than that found in the academic departments, then faculty will perceive that the institution values athletics more than academics.

The location of space is also symbolic of how the institution values both the contribution of an activity or unit and the physical relationship among units. …

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