Crunch time for education estates
Education institutions are gearing-up for one of the busiest times of the year. Soon exams will have finished, swiftly followed by the end of term, and education professionals will be well aware that results days bring their own stresses, only emphasised by the impact that Covid has had upon education..
This year, many institutions will be hitting the new academic year with big plans. Never has it been more important to create a compelling reason for students to choose one college or university over another. Creating the right learning space can make all the difference – not only to student attainment, but also to staff morale. Having a facility which is tailor-made, has all the right equipment and is an inspiring space to learn is more important than ever.
And the standard of education estates is in the spotlight more than ever – it’s clear that students want to learn in inspiring spaces. We’ve witnessed this first-hand, through our work handling communications for some truly standout facilities. In 2018/19, we worked with Luminate Education Group on their brand new Quarry Hill Campus – a £60m development in the heart of the city centre, catering for some 4,000 learners. Throughout the course of our work, we developed links with stakeholders, provided value for supporters and helped celebrate student achievements, securing more than 130 individual pieces of media coverage across regional, national and trade titles – including 32 pieces in launch week alone. We worked with the brilliant team on the ground to identify the stories behind the campus, enabling some excellent community engagement.
Now, with the Further Education Capital Transformation Fund in full-swing, it’s likely that those in receipt of funds will be quickly turning their attention back to their own exciting plans when the new term starts in September. There can be a whole host of considerations for leadership and estates teams to think about – not least navigating the complex world of planning authorities, smoothing relations with stakeholders and communicating benefits to the community. This is something we’ve experienced through our work to secure planning permission for education estates in the past, consulting with thousands of people in communities to ensure that plans develop effectively.
But it’s important to look further ahead, and remember that the work doesn’t stop at the point of receiving planning consent. As our handy guide points out, there are many touchpoints throughout the development process – and even after the opening of a new facility – that require carefully-considered and strategic communications.
So while the focus over the summer will rightly be around results and then clearing – something we worked with a higher education client to secure national coverage for in 2021 – September will start afresh with new focus. Never has getting the communications right around an education new build been more important.