University buildings now integral to the brand

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Did you know? According to research by the London School of Economics over a third of university students have rejected a place at a higher education institution because of what they perceived as low quality university buildings and other facilities.

Add to that the results of a recent Which survey that showed a whopping 57% felt the quality of academic facilities was fundamentally important, and you begin to understand the vital nature of impressive university estates.

The Jockey Club Innovation Tower

Photos by www.zaha-hadid.com

Make no mistake; higher education is big business these days. And with far less funding than ever before coming from central government, the race to sign up next year’s fee-paying scholars has become increasingly competitive, with vast sums of money now allocated to slick marketing campaigns. As a result, university buildings have become integral to the brand.

Now, don’t get me wrong, impressive estates don’t have to mean modern university buildings necessarily. For example, the heritage and grandeur associated with Oxford and Cambridge’s estates are enormous sources of prestige for many students, particularly those who study the more classical subjects.

But imagine you wanted to study design and visited a campus that was little more than a collection of dark, joyless, 1960s concrete university buildings, which failed to inspire you on both the conscious and unconscious levels. That would turn you off, right?

Mansueto Library University of Chicago

Photos by http://mansueto.lib.uchicago.edu

Indeed, the design of university buildings is often perceived as synonymous with not just the institution, but also its overall ethos, its approach to learning, its level of tech-savviness and ultimately the value of the qualification.

Nowadays it is abundantly clear that newer institutions, particularly those in the research led Russell Group, have invested heavily in eye-catching estates that seem to be screaming innovation, dynamism and excellence, among other things.

A perfect example of this is our local Russell Group university, the University of Southampton, whose new Institute for Life Sciences building immediately strikes you as a symbol of post-modern design excellence.

But it’s not just in this country where we see this trend developing. In fact, across the developed world we are seeing increasing numbers of radical looking university buildings springing up as higher education institutions open their arms to the global student market.

Mansueto Library University of Chicago

Photos by http://mansueto.lib.uchicago.edu

The Jockey Club Innovation Tower at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and giant glass domes, similar to our own, at the Universities of Chicago and Berlin are prime examples of impressive estates.

As somebody who often visits university campuses and speaks to students for work purposes, it seems to me that applicants who have their eyes set on a particular university will always choose that institution if they are offered a place.

But in just the same way floating voters determine the outcome of a general election, it is the undecided degree applicant who can help guarantee the longer term success of a university by voting with his or her feet.

Therefore, with so much at stake, it would be a very foolish institution that dismissed the evidence about the importance of university buildings revealed by these two studies.

What do you think about the importance of university buildings? Are they now integral to the brand? Maybe you disagree. Let us know what you think by commenting below.

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