BBC News

Universities say £9bn building boom will boost economy

By Judith Burns
Education reporter, BBC News

image copyrightSheffield University
image captionAmbitious plans include Sheffield University's new engineering building

A £9bn building boom at some of the UK's best known universities will create jobs and boost the economy, according to a report.

The report for the Russell Group of universities says investment in buildings and facilities will generate thousands of new jobs.

The study analysed 69 capital projects at the group's 24 member institutions.

The group's director general, Wendy Piatt, said investment would help keep UK universities among the world's best.

The study looked at building plans for the four years to March 2017.

Projects range from new student accommodation to medical research facilities, science labs, office space and facilities to help start-up businesses and universities work better together.

Campus masterplan

They include Sheffield University's £81m engineering building, expected to open in 2016.

The university says the building will:

  • accommodate 1,600 additional engineering students and 400 extra staff by 2020
  • create 500 construction jobs
  • bring £44.5m into the local economy by the end of its first year in operation

Sheffield has already built a new student union and a management school.

At Manchester University a new engineering campus and redeveloped business school are part of a £1bn plan for the next 10 years.

In London, Imperial College is building a new campus at White City, part of it on the site of former BBC offices.

image copyrightImperial College
image captionImperial College's West Campus will locate research, healthcare and businesses on the same site

The University of Cambridge plans to spend £1bn on "the largest single capital development project in its 800-year history" on farmland to the north-west of the city.

Birmingham University is building a £55m sports centre for students, staff and the wider community, which will include the city's first 50m (165ft) swimming pool, a state-of-the-art library and a cultural centre.

The report estimates that overall spending plans by the 24 Russell Group institutions will generate £44.3bn for the UK economy over the next 25 years and support 37,800 temporary construction jobs and over 60,000 permanent jobs.

'Firm footing'

The most recent figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in the year ending March 2013 capital spending by all UK universities was £3.1bn.

Dr Piatt urged the government to "step up big capital investment in our universities".

She added: "We will keep investing on behalf of our students and academics, but the rest of the world are snapping at our heels and spending money to match their ambition. We must do the same."

A spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said the report showed universities were benefiting from government reforms, with "strong institutions, a world-class research base and dedicated staff".

"Overall university income is increasing and institutions are now on a firm financial footing," he said.

"To support the industry and ensure the sector continues to thrive, we have protected the research budget and are delivering a better student experience."

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