News & Views

University of Hertfordshire: A property success story

The 50 attendees at today’s Real Estate Around London commercial property professionals event were treated to a fascinating insight into how the University of Hertfordshire has become a leading business-facing university. Of huge interest was the fact that ‘real estate was deemed central to realisation of the 2010-2015 vision’ as Andrew May, Director of Estates at the university explained.

A blueprint for success

The event organised by Sherrards Solicitors, Lambert Smith Hampton and WMT Chartertered Accountants, enabled attendees to experience one of the UK’s leading and most improved secondary education establishments, one which enjoys international recognition for the blueprint it has created for how a university should work hand in hand with industry. The learning environment that has been created is first class, in some cases carbon-neutral, and operates as a successful, profit-making business.

The university now serves 25,000 students, and the average A’Level grades required for entry have risen to BBB. It also has a 93.2% ’employability’ score which means that nearly all students who graduate proceed to further education or employment within 6 months of leaving.

Property professionals networking with their peers at the REAL commercial property event at University of Hertfordshire

Property professionals networking with their peers at the REAL commercial property event at University of Hertfordshire

Building a property and business vision in tough times

What’s really astounding is that the university set about achieving its vision in a time of austerity in which funding was limited, revenues were under pressure, and the university was not in a position to borrow.

The university realised that the estate needed to be improved to attract more, higher calibre students who themselves had become more discerning ‘consumers’ who wanted more value, and of course, had the tools via social media to let the world know what they thought of the university!

Use of capital markets, cost reductions, careful VAT planning, and private sector partnerships have allowed the university to develop its real estate portfolio (the De Havilland and College Lane campuses) to diversity its business interests and develop new, long-term income streams through tenancies with Ocado, Santander and the NHS.

Simple, effective changes to its facilities management arrangements have also saved millions, and a forward-thinking initiative to build carbon-neutral student accommodation might have cost £5m extra, but will save £40m over its lifetime.

What we heard today was an eye-opening presentation on what can be achieved by any company with a strong vision  in an intensely competitive sector – a lesson for us all as we start thinking ahead to 2015!

Join us in 2015

For more information about the next REAL property professionals event, please contact Melissa Menelaou at Sherrards, join the LinkedIn group, or follow us on Twitter. This is a free breakfast seminar offering the opportunity to hear from a great speaker and network with your peers.

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