This large-scale redevelopment project will cement the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) as one of the UK’s largest and most popular universities.
Ambitious campus development initiative underway
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has begun work on an ambitious redevelopment project of its Preston campus. This initiative will take over a decade to complete, with the objective of creating an inspiring educational environment that blends world-class teaching and learning with green and accessible space. This work will include:
- Construction of a £30 Million-Plus Engineering Innovation Centre
- Erection of a new student services building
- Landscaping of the historic Maudland Bank canal basin
- Encouraging commercial integration with Preston’s businesses and communities
- Creation of a healthy, accessible and environmentally sustainable campus
Planning for the future
This initiative is evidence that UCLan is adapting effectively to the demand-based system that will come into place at the beginning of the next academic year with the deregulation of the intake cap. It means that the university is well positioned to maximise 2015/2016 intake levels as 30,000 extra student places become available nationally before restrictions are removed completely from 2016.
Together with the £100 million recently spent on teaching facilities, this should be seen as an indication of UCLan’s prudent management and foreword thinking at a time when reduced block grants from the government have created budgetary constraints forcing universities to concentrate financial resources on education and research.
As such, there has been a privatisation of areas not seen as economic priorities, something that can be seen with campus bookstores being replaced by chains and the arrival of privatised catering and cleaning companies, for instance.
Opportunities for private property investors
These structural shifts in the business of higher education institutions have presented opportunities for private investors. This includes Purpose Built Student Accommodation, a sector that was once the preserve of universities that have in recent years been forced to offload accommodation responsibilities to private developers.
However, universities cannot turn a blind eye to local standards of student accommodation despite not having the budgets to address the issues with university owned halls of residence that are ill equipped to deal with modern realities. Several universities have already experienced difficulties, with first-year students in Bristol forced to share rooms at the beginning of this academic year as a consequence of mismanagement of local supply issues.
With only 26% of students having access to designated student rooms across the UK, there is a synergy between university campus redevelopment and PBSA in terms of ensuring the institution remains an attractive academic destination.
Students see quality accommodation as central to their university experience, and their availability represents a key element of their university selection. Importantly, there is a relationship between PBSA rent levels and what universities charge; rising tuition fees mean that students are prepared to pay more for accommodation that allows them to maximise the university experience and achieve a level of employability that will enable them to pay off their student loans.
Given the high expectations of students with regard to facilities, investors can expect higher returns from properties offering elements like gyms, cinemas and coffee shops than those bought by private developers from old, poorly equipped university stock.
This synergy of university and privately owned facilities is well encapsulated by the way UCLan’s campus redevelopment initiative will eventually surround our Jubilee Court Student Property with university-owned walkways, landscaped public spaces and a state of the art sports centre.
UCLan’s campus redevelopment work would be unable to meet its objective of sustaining high intake levels without private developers providing student property of a similarly high standard. At 17%, the access of Preston’s students to designated student rooms is well below the national average and private student property developments like Jubilee Court will ensure that the university stays on the cutting edge of the academic sector for the foreseeable future.