Ten years ago, rationalisation was the buzzword – all capital projects needed to be justified on the grounds of effective space utilisation among other things. Driven by the LSC's affordability policy, college capital programmes soon got out of hand in many instances and the grounds for investment were driven by growth and the net present value.
It's now time to reconsider rationalisation and to be realistic about the resources required to deliver excellent tuition. There are a growing number of private-sector organisations looking at ways to help the FE sector. Yes, their goal is to create revenue – but, if approached correctly, working with private developers could be a win-win situation. It could also pay off to play on the position of others. For example, utilising offsite leased premises may be a far more cost-effective and flexible solution for certain areas such as construction, hairdressing and beauty therapy.
It's important not to overlook the ongoing needs of the estate – both maintenance and statutory compliance – to prevent your college's estate from entering another downward spiral. While this is more evident for those colleges that weren't lucky enough to benefit from the LSC's Building Colleges for the Future programme, new buildings bring with them their own set of challenges.
There are savings and efficiencies to be made in college estates. With more distance learning courses on offer, onsite provision is shrinking. We don't need to learn any new tricks, simply bring back skills learned a decade ago. A property strategy doesn't need to involve investing £30M. Modest levels of capital investment can go a long way if the college has a clearly thought-through strategy that recognises provision that is delivered inefficiently in the wrong place, or from the wrong type or amount of space.
In 1997 the FEFC published Circular 97/19 Accommodation strategies. The messages in this still apply, so brush the dust off and reacquaint yourself with a classic.
Find out more at our college estates seminar, 25 January 2011
To hear expert views and get innovative, value for money ideas for improving the college estate, don't miss our half-day seminar Is it Back to the Future for college estates?, taking place on 25 January 2011 in Holborn, Central London.
The programme features key speakers including John Bryan, formerly Chief Executive Bond Bryan Architects; Alison Clarke, Principal and Chief Executive, Canterbury College; Chris Hearn, National Head of Education Sectors, Barclays Corporate; Stephen Beechey, Director, Wates Construction; Chris Tremellen, Director, Aecom Davis Langdon and Andrew Aloof, Director, Black Pepper Design.You will:
LSN's property specialists also provide a range of support to help you ensure that your estate is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. Find out more
Read other FE News articles by John Stone:
A new map for reaching 'outstanding'?