Connecting Industries Worldwide

Balfour Beatty publishes its paper: “Universities Fit for the Future: How to thrive in a skills economy”

Universities in the UK have a vital role in addressing critical skills shortages and unlocking economic growth and productivity; however, while the UK currently has record numbers of students – 1.7million young people in full time higher education – universities will have to adapt if they are to thrive.

The university experience, from lectures to the library will need to be reinvented. Students on campus now expect a seamless and integrated digital experience. The boom in 24/7 learning is already replacing the traditional academic structure, and this will only continue to grow.

In this paper, Balfour Beatty lays out its vision for universities of the future; specifically, the infrastructure which will be required to support the changing needs of students across accommodation, lecture halls, and libraries.

Students are paying significant amounts for their degrees and expect their accommodation to reflect this to facilitate a positive learning and living environment with access to high-quality spaces for cooking and dining, study, interaction and recreation. Additionally, today’s students demand high-performing Wi-Fi as standard, to enable them to watch lectures remotely, undertake research and organise their lives.

Students are increasingly demanding cross-disciplinary learning which will see the development of new purpose-built hubs bringing business and universities together. Teaching spaces will also need to become more dynamic and flexible, as students listen to lectures from other locations while attending campus for tutorials and seminars.

The library has not been the starting point for accessing information for many years and libraries will continue to evolve as they become even less book orientated. The library will have to become more accessible, with 24/7 access policies, self-service loan facilities, welcoming cafés and digital solutions to access information with greater use of online journals, e-books and digitised versions of core texts.

Robert Byrnes, Framework Manager for the University of Manchester at Balfour Beatty, said: “To thrive today and to compete for the best and brightest students across the globe our universities will need to customise their offer and work more closely with business to give young people the skills that are directly relevant to the workplace guaranteeing them employability. This offer needs to be reflected in the campuses in which students live and learn.”