Balfour Beatty, the international infrastructure group, has today published its paper “Universities Fit for the Future: How to thrive in a skills economy”.
Our Universities in the UK have a vital role in addressing critical skills shortages and unlocking economic growth and productivity; however, while the UK currently has record numbers of students – 1.7million young people in full time higher education – universities will have to adapt if they are to thrive.
The university experience, from lectures to the library will need to be reinvented. Students on campus now expect a seamless and integrated digital experience. The boom in 24/7 learning is already replacing the traditional academic structure, and this will only continue to grow.
In this paper, Balfour Beatty lays out its vision for universities of the future; specifically, the infrastructure which will be required to support the changing needs of students across accommodation, lecture halls, and libraries.
Accommodation. Students are paying significant amounts for their degrees and expect their accommodation to reflect this to facilitate a positive learning and living environment with access to high quality spaces for cooking and dining, study, interaction and recreation. Additionally today’s students demand high-performing Wi-Fi as standard, to enable them to watch lectures remotely, undertake research and organize their lives.
Lecture halls and learning spaces. Students are increasingly demanding cross-disciplinary learning which will see the development of new purpose-built hubs bringing business and universities together. Teaching spaces will also need to become more dynamic and flexible, as students listen to lectures from other locations while attending campus for tutorials and seminars.
Libraries. The library has not been the starting point for accessing information for many years and libraries will continue to evolve as they become even less book orientated. The library will have to become more accessible, with 24/7 access policies, self-service loan facilities, welcoming cafés and digital solutions to access information with greater use of online journals, e-books and digitised versions of core texts.
Robert Byrnes, Framework Manager for the University of Manchester at Balfour Beatty, said: “To thrive today and to compete for the best and brightest students across the globe our universities will need to customize their offer and work more closely with business to give young people the skills that are directly relevant to the workplace guaranteeing them employability. This offer needs to be reflected in the campuses in which students live and learn.”
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Notes to editors:
• Balfour Beatty is one of the UK’s leading rail infrastructure suppliers. From feasibility studies, planning and design through to implementation and asset management, we provide multi-disciplinary rail infrastructure services across the lifecycle of rail assets. Our expertise covers electrification, track, power, civils, specialist rail plant, railway systems and technologies.
• Our main geographies are the UK, US, and Far East. Over the last 100 years we have created iconic buildings and infrastructure all over the world including the London Olympics’ Aquatic Centre, Hong Kong’s first Zero Carbon building, the National Museum of the Marine Corps in the US and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
• Working for both universities and private companies Balfour Beatty since 2010 has delivered over 16,000 student bedrooms across the UK. Past accommodation projects, many of which incorporate social facilities to create a community feel on campus, include: 103 Carnley Street, London; Talybont Gate, Cardiff University; Holyrood Student Accommodation, University of Edinburgh; and INTO University of Exeter student accommodation. Currently Balfour Beatty is working on delivering a 454-room student accommodation tower 5 Miles Street in Vauxhall in London on behalf of Urbanest a provider of student accommodation.
• Our portfolio of higher education projects include: The £19m scheme to renovate and extend The University of Bristol’s Grade II listed Fry Building, providing state-of-the-art facilities for the School of Mathematics; The University of Cambridge’s £500m Estate Management Framework, through which Balfour Beatty is delivering a range of projects worth more than £30m; The state of the art National Automotive Innovation Centre at the University of Warwick; and Balfour Beatty has recently been awarded the £287m contract by The University of Manchester to Construct the Manchester Engineering Campus Development (MECD).