In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education, universities face a dual challenge: staying competitive in a discerning market and addressing the emerging needs of students.
The transformation of university spaces has become a linchpin in navigating these challenges, prompting institutions to invest in innovative design and build solutions to set them apart and enhance their global appeal.
The nexus of mindset, spaces, and learning experience
The changes in mindset, approach, and deliverables within universities are intricately linked to the physical spaces they occupy.
Recognising this, institutions are redirecting resources toward creating meticulously designed spaces for both learning and social experiences. This strategic move not only supports and enhances learning but also gives universities a significant competitive edge.
Traditionally, implementing substantial changes to university facilities required a slow and cumbersome development process. However, the approach to design and build for universities has emerged as a game-changer, offering a more efficient alternative to implement updates and additions during university holidays.
Navigating the shifting educational landscape
Our collaboration with leading UK universities reveals a demand not only for technical capabilities like sound studios and mock hospital wards but also a shift toward a more vocational approach to teaching.
This evolution aligns with student demands and societal needs, emphasising the importance of preparing students for real-world challenges.
The changing educational landscape reflects a greater consideration for mental well-being, social well-being, and neurodiversity. Universities are not only striving to help students secure employment post-graduation but are also adopting engaged learning methodologies.
Additionally, there’s a growing emphasis on environmental sustainability, aligning with students’ ethical considerations and playing a crucial role in attracting new talents.
Energise’s Cost of Net Zero report in collaboration with AUDE and the Department of Education said: “For the Higher and Further Education sector to transition to Net Zero, it is estimated that it will cost a total of £43.8 bn.” With those costs in mind, it’s imperative that design implements sustainability meaningfully and strategically, rather than as a box checking exercise.
Addressing social needs through innovative spaces
Universities are increasingly focused on developing environments that attract students to specific professions. For instance, the challenges in healthcare have positioned universities to play a pivotal role in training and inspiring future healthcare professionals.
Mock hospital wards, such as those developed for Buckinghamshire New University and London South Bank University’s Croydon campus, exemplify this commitment to providing real-life training environments using cutting-edge technology.
This social calling extends beyond medicine, with a broader trend toward different disciplines coming together to learn, collaborate, and problem-solve.
The siloed approach to subjects is giving way to interdisciplinary learning, mirroring the complexities of the modern world.
Development with precision, urgency, and accuracy
The pressing need for updated facilities in the education sector demands a design and build process that combines precision with an understanding of the evolving education landscape.
This includes factors supporting emotional well-being, neurodiversity, and social well-being. To future-proof spaces effectively, the design and build process must also have the capacity to deliver new spaces within tight schedules, ensuring readiness for term time.
The traditional vs. turnkey approach to building spaces
The traditional approach to developing new spaces involves a protracted sequence of engaging architects, structural engineers, builders, and project managers. This process can take a year or more, with additional delays caused by scheduling complexities and communication challenges. The lack of overall transparency can contribute to increased costs and delays.
In contrast, the turnkey approach offered by design and build companies, creates a streamlined process with a single point of contact. With a strong team of experts covering all aspects of design and build, projects can be delivered with speed and transparency. This approach enables quick problem-solving, ensuring that challenges do not impact the overall project outcomes.
For example, Middlesex University referred to our delivery of a project as their ‘Christmas miracle.’ In just a few months, we designed and renovated laboratory space for 75 students, ready for the second term in January.
Our ongoing projects, like developing specialist lab space over summer holidays for the new academic year at Middlesex University, showcase the efficiency and agility of the design and build approach.
Seizing opportunities for educational excellence
Universities, at the forefront of educational change, have exciting opportunities ahead. Those seeking to be competitive are investing thoughtfully in the learning environment.
However, capitalising on these changes requires not just a consideration of what needs to change but a strategic understanding of how these changes are implemented.
To embark on the journey of developing a world-leading education space, institutions can benefit from engaging with experts in the field.