Rise in uni students could create facilities management challenges

August 19th, 2014 Category: Colleges and Higher Education

Higher education facilities managers will have their work cut out during the upcoming academic year after a record number of students had university places confirmed. Figures from admissions body Ucas reveal that 412,170 students now have a place at a UK university, up by three per cent on last year.

This increase in the number of students living and working on-campus means greater use of facilities, and a more difficult task for support staff – including cooks, caretakers, security and cleaners. Each of the additional students who begins an undergraduate course in the autumn will potentially increase the workload of such employees. Many will move into university accommodation for the first year of their degree, and as such, will utilise communal facilities.  

Student numbers increasing

Ucas believes the number of university entrants will continue to increase in the coming years, with the total set to head towards the half a million mark. The introduction of tuition fees may have had a short-term impact on numbers heading into higher education, but several years on, normal service has resumed.

More than two-thirds (70 per cent) of the students entering higher education this autumn have places on their first-choice course, up by two per cent on 2013. Thousands more have secured entry through the clearing process, which finds appropriate courses for individuals who failed to get the grades they needed. Some students have even used the clearing adjustment system to 'trade up' courses, having gained better grades than they expected.

Coping with the influx

This summer has seen universities compete for students more so that in previous years, with the government making an additional 30,000 places available. Some higher education institutions have more spare capacity than others, and are better able to cope with an influx of new entrants. Those which are increasing their intake in 2014 need to ensure their facilities management teams have the required resources to cope, particularly if they are short of space. It may be necessary for some universities to increase their use of on-site support staff or contracted service providers to ensure standards are maintained.

Naturally, cleaning is one important area that cannot be overlooked – from a hygiene perspective, but also in terms of the reputation of each university. It will not be long until the next wave of A-Level students come visiting, as part of their tour of higher education institutions. If universities want to make it onto the shortlist of talented students, they need to make the best possible first impression. A dirty, messy campus is unlikely to help in this regard – it will probably dissuade sixth-formers from choosing certain universities when they send in their Ucas form.