Blog Post

University Estates Management: managing growing complexity

01.04.2022 | 5 min read | Written by Alexandra Hasek

University estates management teams have performed a vital role in helping keep staff and students safe throughout the coronavirus pandemic. From setting up testing centres to installing hygiene points and reconfiguring buildings for one-directional traffic, university campus management departments have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

Of course, the university estates management role has always been challenging. Whether it’s managing a combination of heritage and new buildings, a rapidly growing student population or changing expectations of campus, adaptation has always been vital. But this complexity is only set to increase in the coming years.

University estates with several buildings and a lawn.

Let’s look at how university campus management is becoming more complex and how universities can respond to this new reality.

Learn more: Estate management digital transformation

University estates management is becoming more complex

Did you know that over 30% of university campus management budget is spent on repairs and maintenance? And, right across the university sector, maintenance spending reaches a whopping £3 billion every year. To ensure this money is spent as efficiently as possible, facilities management teams must plan for how they will adapt to the industry’s growing complexity.

Here are just some of the factors making modern university estates management more complex.

Cleanliness is more vital than ever

While hygiene and cleanliness have always been important in estates management, it is even more important in the post-pandemic era. Students and staff, especially those who are vulnerable, expect more cleaning and hygiene measures, and for hand sanitiser to be available at all times. Cleaning methods and requirements that at first looked like they would be temporary are likely to now become a long-term feature of university campus management. This will add to the ‘to do’ lists of estates teams.

Inspiration: COVID-19 safety checklists

Climate change adaptation

Almost all universities today have committed to achieving net-zero emissions across their estates in the coming decades. When it comes to university estates management, this trend will mean that estates teams will have to:

  • Upgrade existing assets with things like insulation, double glazing, HVAC inspections and other energy efficiency measures.
  • Review existing procurement strategies for materials (perhaps focusing on using ‘circular economy’ products), while repairing, recycling or repurposing things they would have just replaced in the past.
  • Consider the installation of energy generation technologies on campus, including solar panels on building roofs, heat pumps and similar tech.


Read more: Reducing building emissions for facilities managers

The challenge of ageing buildings for university estates management teams

Although ageing buildings have always been an issue in university estates management, it will become a more pressing issue over the coming decade. Many colleges and universities buildings were put up during the rapid higher education expansion of the 1960s. Most large buildings have a planned life span of around 60 years – so an ever-growing number of those older college buildings are now entering the final stages of their ‘lives’. It is going to be vital for universities to find ways to adapt and upgrade these older properties. Alternatively, they may need to make major decisions about replacing them.

Fire safety: a higher priority than ever

As the Grenfell tower and Glasgow School of Art blazes show, fire safety in large buildings and estates needs to be continually reviewed. There is a greater onus than ever before on university campus management teams to monitor fire risks of assets across their estates on a regular basis.

Changing technology

The kinds of technology used in today’s lecture halls, laboratories and computer rooms is changing rapidly. University estates management teams need to constantly stay on top of their technology inventory to ensure it is up to date and well maintained.

Changing purposes of assets

The purpose of many university buildings is also undergoing change, particularly as a result of the pandemic and its effect on where and how students learn. With fewer lectures happening in person, for instance, universities may find alternate uses for some of their lecture halls. Additionally, some specialist labs may quickly become redundant or insufficient as technology rapidly develops.

Student expectations

With today’s students paying up to £10,000 per year for their tuition, expectations of the services and facilities provided on campus are significantly higher than for previous generations. University estates management teams must consider new ways to provide experiences, places and facilities that today’s students want. Whether it is mobility options, technology availability or socialising areas, campuses must continually adapt to and exceed expectations.

Expanding university estate surface area

A growing number of universities are operating offshoot campuses, laboratories and even business hubs beyond their main campus. This geographical expansion of university footprints will also add to the complexity of managing estates.

How technology helps complex university campus management

Today’s university estates management teams have a far more complex job than they did even a decade ago when it comes to keeping campuses operating optimally. To continue providing services and managing changing expectations, they need to find the most efficient ways to manage facilities.

And this is where technology like PlanRadar can help. The cloud software, which is available both on your desktop and mobile phones, allows university campus management departments to:

  • View blueprints and building models of all their assets
  • Create checklists and reminders for inspections and maintenance tasks
  • Allocate jobs to subcontractors and verify that they have completed work
  • Manage facility upgrade projects – both large and small
  • Digitise the process of university estates management to boost efficiency and collaboration


To learn more about how PlanRadar helps university estates management teams, or for a demo of the product, contact us today.

Get started in 4 easy steps.

1. Create an account

2. Upload plans

3. Invite team members

4. Download app