Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE)
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Good estates management makes universities and colleges more efficient and sustainable

Universities and colleges across the UK are continuing to improve the quality of their buildings and to use them more efficiently, according to a report published today (13 June) by HEFCE.

'Performance in higher education estates: EMS Annual Report 2010' (HEFCE 2011/17) focuses on the performance of UK higher education estates over the 10 years to 2009. In that time, the proportion of buildings in 'good' condition has increased from 63 per cent to 76 per cent, and as a result infrastructure is better able to support high-quality teaching and research.

Space is also being used more efficiently, mirroring trends in the public and private sector. Space per person has gone down from 9.6m2 to 8.8m2, although office space per academic has increased from 13m2 to 13.8m2.

Environmental performance has also improved, due in part to the more efficient use of space. There has been a significant drop in median energy consumption per student and staff (full-time equivalent), from 2,764 kWh to 2,446 kWh.

Other improvements over the 10-year period include:

  • the average (median) percentage of space deemed functionally suitable has risen from 66 per cent to 83 per cent
  • the average (median) backlog affordability score, which measures the number of times an institution's repair backlog is covered by its total income, has risen from 6.6 to 9.0. This means universities and colleges are better able to afford to carry out repairs
  • the average (median) water consumption per student and staff FTE in non-residential areas decreased by 27 per cent.

In the same 10-year period non-residential income per m2 has risen at an increasing rate, while the proportion of institutions' income spent on estates has fallen from 10.9 per cent to 9.4 per cent. This improves universities' and colleges' financial position and has been achieved despite above-inflation cost rises in some elements of property cost, such as utilities which has increased by a factor of nearly four.

Institutions' carbon reduction targets have also been published in the EMS annual report as part of HEFCE's commitment to transparency, consistent with the Environmental Information Regulations. These targets – to be achieved by 2020 against a 1990 baseline – will contribute to the UK higher education sector target of a 43 per cent reduction. Individual institutional targets are not required to be the same as the sector target because it is recognised that each institution will be able to make a different contribution to the target, and that carbon emissions will vary.

The progress by institutions toward their targets is slightly lower than the sector-level target to date, but the progress made demonstrates the commitment of the sector to reducing emissions. We will continue to promote and support carbon reduction through implementing the carbon reduction strategy and the forthcoming Revolving Green Fund 2.

HEFCE Deputy Chief Executive, Steve Egan, said:

'These improvements demonstrate how good-quality, energy-efficient facilities for staff and students can be delivered through sustained capital investment in higher education estates.

'Good estates management is also helping universities and colleges to stay financially sustainable. Institutions have increased their median income per m2 by more than 78 per cent, from £637 per m2 to £1,136 per m2, well above the rate of inflation for the same period. So overall, the UK's higher education estate is far better placed to withstand the effects of significant change than it was 10 years ago.

'And since institutions typically spend around 10 per cent of their income on their estates, the current tighter financial environment is indeed likely to bring challenges. We recommend that senior management teams and estates committees use this report, and the Estate Management Statistics on which it is based, to help them develop strategies to meet those challenges and continue their success.'

'Performance in higher education estates: EMS Annual Report 2010' (HEFCE 2011/17) is available in full.


  1. 'Performance in higher education estates: EMS Annual Report 2010' (HEFCE 2011/17) reports on the findings of the Estate Management Statistics Service (EMS). The latest EMS data set was collated during 2009-10 and covers the 2008-09 financial year. It incorporates data from 160 higher education institutions in the UK, and thus continues to deliver a consistent and robust set of estates data for the vast majority of UK HEIs. The report was produced by IPD Occupiers. See more information on EMS.
  2. Carbon reduction targets for institutions are published on the HEFCE web-site.
  3. Details of the Revolving Green Fund are available on the HEFCE web-site.

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