Positioning of your college is vital, so having a clear understanding of your own strengths and where you wish to see your college will help refine and hone that strategic outlook, and whether there are certain colleges with whom you would prefer to do business compared with others.
Some of the colleges we are dealing with are already addressing these issues. Irrespective of the merits of the Area Reviews, and of their political and practical consequences, it is clear that all colleges will have to adapt and face these challenges head on. Far better in our view to be prepared for the prospect of merger and collaboration, whatever form that may take.
As the purpose of the review makes clear, well-placed colleges will deliver a wide variety of the following key factors:
Your real estate will be a key component of any merger or collaboration. Key aspects to consider from a campus perspective include the below.
Understand What you Own
This is not as trite as it may sound, especially for those colleges with multiple sites. You should have titles where you know what the key estates issues are, viewing the quality of your estate as if it were being made available for sale. The key here is knowing what impacts on the site may make it more or less attractive for an alternative use. Do you operate from a site that is intrinsically valuable (or not)? Do the legal boundaries match with what you occupy in practice?
Understand the Value of each Campus and how it Fits into your Overall Strategy
It is easier to reconfigure or even sell properties that may be used as offices or general teaching space, than those where the capital investment and layout has specifically been earmarked for specialist course provisions, such as construction, engineering (of whatever sort) or hairdressing.
Understand the Value of your Business Partnerships
Understand the nature of your business partnerships and how valuable they are to your existing estate and future course provision.
Where you do have specialist teaching space, to what extent is that supported financially and strategically by other major businesses with whom you may be in partnership?
Your Local Planning Authority's Local Plan
Check where the local planning authority has reached in the preparation of its Local Plan. Each local authority is obliged to have an up to date Local Plan as part of the NPPF process but as of January 2016, only 84% of local planning authorities had published a Local Plan and only 68% had adopted one. The Housing & Planning Bill is looking to give further impetus to this process but generally this means that for those that have not yet been finalised, there is likely to be an opportunity for colleges to assess the extent to which surplus premises can be re-allocated for alternative, non-educational uses.
Identify Potential Issues
Having checked what you own is okay, consider the extent to which you might need to take action in order to remedy defects or issues that might impinge re-development or sales or an alternative usage. For example:
Addressing the issues that impact on the fabric of your real estate at an early stage will put you in a stronger strategic position to face the challenges arising out of the Area Review.