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Library love

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Published in Aude Spotlight
Students more interested in library and IT facilities than pubs and social spaces as nearly two thirds of UK students say libraries, accommodation and IT facilities are key to their university choice.
 
AUDE’s* latest student experience survey released today, found that facilities are an important factor for nearly two thirds (61%) of students when choosing a university. For the third year running, study facilities, including IT stations and libraries, came out on top with only 24% of students placing importance on entertainment and social buildings when it comes to deciding their choice of higher education institution. The report commissioned by AUDE, surveyed two thousand students on their university choice and the facilities that are most important to them.
 
Accommodation remains a priority for potential students with over half (57%) agreeing and strongly agreeing that it played a key role in their selection. As the marketization of universities continues, there is increased pressure for universities to attract students so accommodation choice and quality will continue to be extremely important. Other key influences when choosing a university include course (79%), location (69%) and academic ranking (44%).
 
The report also found that despite funding cuts, university facilities continue to improve and AUDE members are responding strongly to the efficiency and effectiveness agenda. 83% of students believe their university study facilities to be excellent or good, an increase by 5% from 2015’s figures. Other building quality indicators are also improving, with 65% of students stating their accommodation facilities are excellent or good and 60% stating the same for their catering facilities.
 
Students are spending more time than ever on their studies, with the library being the most used facility for 66% of UK students and IT facilities second (51%). Gender differences are still apparent; 70% of female students use the library compared to only 57% of their male peers. Over a third (36%) of male students reported to use sport facilities the most, compared to just 18% of women.
 
AUDE Chair Trevor Humphreys, Director of Estates and Facilities, at the University of Surrey commented; “The data shows that students place a strong emphasis on learning facilities more so than social space but we know that the quality and adequate supply of both are very important to today’s student. Choosing the right university is a big step for many young adults and the survey again shows that higher education facilities play an important part in their decision. Effective estate management is key to ensuring higher education institutions deliver the best possible student experience, both academically and socially, so it’s encouraging to know that despite many sector challenges, a very high level of students feel their university offers clean and well maintained buildings.
 
“Directors of Estates need to continually understand both student behaviour and satisfaction, which is why we commissioned this survey. AUDE and its members are at the forefront of ensuring that UK university estates and facilities are well managed and maintained, efficient and effective. It is our role to ensure that the facilities we are responsible for continue to be world class, both to attract and retain the finest students and staff from across the UK and internationally.”
 
The survey found that over half (59%) of students polled say they would be happy for more money to be spent on facilities or the estate as a whole. For over 10 years the sector has been committed to the sustainability agenda and many universities have developed and delivered some very sustainable buildings, however the survey revealed that 22% of UK students would like additional money spent on more environmentally-friendly buildings. Recently AUDE has developed a Green Scorecard [http://www.aude.ac.uk/resources/sustainability/green-scorecard/], a comprehensive tool to help higher education institutions across the UK measure the sustainability work they do, set targets and benchmark.
 
University facilities are so much more than just a university’s buildings. The University estate and associated land and property are one of the university’s biggest assets and the importance of effective leadership and management of these assets cannot be understated – from strategic management, capital planning, facilities services such as cleaning, security, horticulture and maintenance services through to space planning, property management, legislative compliance, car parking, traffic management and asset management. University facilities really do play a big role in all aspects of a student’s time at university.
 
With the UK political environment continuing to change, the sector must respond to the challenges presented in relation to Brexit and the Higher Education and Research Bill currently going through Parliament. The bill aims to deliver greater competition and choice to promote social mobility, boost productivity in the economy, ensure students receive value for money from their investment in higher education and strengthen the UK’s world-class capabilities in research and innovation.  Greater competition will be delivered through new providers being granted degree awarding powers, a continued focus on the student experience and even greater transparency.  The creation of the Office for Students and the use of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) will continue to drive focus on student’s needs. Finally, the possible introduction of two year accelerated degrees and the credit transfer system all need careful consideration and the physical estate will need to continue to demonstrate it is efficient, effective and highly valued by the student.
 
To find out more about AUDE and the university estates and facilities sector, visit www.aude.ac.uk

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