Estate Strategies

Re-thinking Estate Strategies for Universities

Covid-19 has already exposed many of the things we do (mostly subconsciously) which we will not be able to do in the future.

We need to re-train ourselves, because the majority of Covid-19 is spread via the hands.  This means that we need to:

  1. Be conscious of where our hands are – at all times.
  2. Keep our hands very clean with systematic washing for 20 seconds.
  3. Avoid touching our eyes, nose or mouth – most people do this very frequently!

The other way you can get the disease is by people coughing and sneezing and the droplets which they emit contain the virus.  (We have known this for 100 years – as the 1918 flu epidemic proved – “be careful not to cough, sneeze or spit” said all the posters).  This is noticeably less dangerous if you are outside.

As a result of all these things we can avoid the virus by avoiding contact with people and if we do have contact, we protect ourselves appropriately.

Impacts on Universities

Any organisation that is looking to reopen their businesses must rethink their strategy in the light of the disease.  However, the Universities Sector may have a particular part to play, because students feel very strongly about the areas of change that have made such progress during the lockdown.

These include:

  • We use less energy now that fewer people are travelling.  People have noticed the air cleanliness, improvements to the atmosphere and even a surge in wildlife. They may wish to find ways of retaining these improvements.
  • Public transport is much more pleasant to travel on because it is not packed.  I think there will be a movement to try to make this a permanent thing by agreeing to stagger staff hours.  Other forms of transport; particularly bikes and E-scooters will become more prevalent.
  • People have become much more likely to work and study from home and have found it to be practical.  Video-conferencing has at last found some measure of acceptability and technology such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have made it affordable.

It is surprising that so many aspects of modern life have been improved out of necessity and we should all take pride about the speed and ingenuity with which we solved a number of problems.

This means that the whole field of Estate Strategies should be reviewed.  Questions should include the following:
  • What happens if people can do some, or most of their work or study from home?
  • What will this do to student and staff numbers on campus?
  • How will study spaces be affected?
  • How will recreational and restaurants be affected?
  • What impact would it have on student accommodation?
  • How will these changes affect the technology network?
  • Could online lectures be turned into videos and delivered online (with parts that need to be updated regularly)?
  • What happens if the hours for students are staggered or made infinitely flexible by using videos?
  • Could the overall quality of teaching be improved by this move towards videos?
  • Could staff use this time more profitably by increasing their research?
  • How will a post-Covid world affect the movements of overseas students?
  • Will people move towards a University nearer to their home?
  • How will the social side of University be handled?
Next Steps

The steps taken as a result of the crisis Covid-19 have been about efficiency and working differently. Rather than sticking to the old ways of doing everything.  These new methods of working will have to remain until a vaccine is discovered.

However, smart organisations will find a way to incorporate these short-term changes into their Estate Strategies in order to create a more secure future.  This means re-examining their long-term strategy in a way that could unleash many of the profound changes that we have begun to uncover.

Covid-19 has had a major impact on our lives and businesses, but there are much larger problems to overcome, such as green energy, changes to our infrastructure and a different attitude to travel.

We can now start sorting out solutions to these problems by reviewing our Estate Strategies.

Interested in re-thinking your estates strategy? Check out our management guide outlines the essential steps when creating your University Estates Strategy.

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