Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Brave New Funding World

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Brave New Funding World

Article excerpt

Hoping to 'future-proof' itself, Northampton University has broken the financial mould, says Nick Petford

When I walk around our campus, I see a changing educational landscape. Students are embracing digital methods of learning, and new tools complement their textbooks. They are asking for flexible study options, creative environments and engaging teaching.

This evolution has been the driving force behind our decision to undertake one of the largest university redevelopment schemes currently under way in the UK. It has also led us down new paths for the sector.

Future-proofing our institutions and standing out from the crowd will increase in importance over the coming years, and taking different approaches, whether by creating new learning techniques or using different funding models, will be crucial to success.

Currently, we provide a teaching experience across two campuses. Our relocation project will integrate both sites into a single town-centre campus, in close proximity to new halls of residence and within one of England's 24 Enterprise Zones. This will improve our services for students and allow us to work even more closely with the local community in support of its growing economy. As well as creating an inspirational place of learning and new retail and leisure outlets, the project also includes a commitment to develop public spaces in and around the campus.

Anticipating the core business of future student wants and needs - and the digital environment best suited to deliver them - is not without challenge. Nevertheless, we believe that the new funding model we have pioneered has the potential to revolutionise financing options for other institutions intent on a similar transformation.

In November 2014 we secured a £231.5 million bond to support the development of the town-centre campus. We are not the first UK university to issue bonds, but we are the first to have our offering guaranteed by the Treasury. With some exceptions, UK universities have mostly fought shy of capital markets, relying instead on bank debt to finance capital projects. This is understandable as, until recently, help from UK funding bodies and other government agencies has been generally forthcoming, minimising the need to borrow. …

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