Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Elite Building Spree Masks Spending Cuts on Campus Facilities

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Elite Building Spree Masks Spending Cuts on Campus Facilities

Article excerpt

New data highlight potential for UK institutions to lose competitive edge. Chris Havergal reports

The dangers of distributing too great a proportion of higher education funding competitively have been highlighted in a study that reveals that a third of universities have cut spending on campus facilities by more than a quarter since 2008.

About half of English higher education institutions reduced their annual capital expenditure by some degree between 2008-09 and 2013-14, according to a report prepared for the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

This overlapped with a 46 per cent rise in sector-wide infrastructure spending between 2005-06 and 2013-14, from £2 billion to £2.9 billion annually, at a time when Hefce funding for capital expenditure was reduced by nearly 70 per cent, from £1.2 billion to £340 million.

But the report says that the overall growth was driven by disproportionately high amounts of spending at a small number of institutions, principally the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and Imperial College London.

The level of Hefce funding reductions varied, with some research-intensive institutions in particular struggling to find money from other sources to maintain expenditure.

And while 60 per cent of capital spending was bankrolled by internal funds in 2013-14, compared with 20 per cent in 2005-06, the review says that in 2013-14 the majority of institutions fell below the 7 per cent operating surplus that Universities UK says is required to maintain existing infrastructure. Even more fell short of 10 per cent, which is judged to be a requirement for financing new investment.

Universities "may increasingly struggle to self-finance capital expenditure in the future", the report warns. This is of concern, the study continues, because UK higher education already spends considerably less per student on capital projects than most international competitors, with outlays running at roughly a third of the US rate, and less than half that of Australia.

"If the situation remains unchanged, the world-class reputation of UK higher education could be at risk," it says.

The report, prepared by Frontier Economics, highlights that the bulk of capital spending went towards new buildings and facilities rather than maintaining existing infrastructure.

Improvements in the quality of non-residential building stock have slowed in recent years, and more than 10 per cent of universities' estates are in poor or fair condition. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.