‘Rival’ universities ‘should share facilities’ in funding crunch

Campus Live event hears sector leaders call for neighbouring institutions to share facilities in the face of declining enrolments

December 6, 2023
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Universities should consider sharing services and facilities with neighbouring institutions as they look to cut costs in the face of funding challenges, sector leaders told Times Higher Education’s Campus Live event.

With declining enrolments, frozen fees and inflation biting, local collaboration might be needed to replace competition between universities in close geographical proximity, according to Niamh Lamond, registrar and chief operating officer at Swansea University.

She said she was “surprised” at the lack of facility sharing in the sector currently, beyond “low-lying fruit” such as shared bus services.

Ms Lamond previously set up a joint campus between Falmouth University and the University of Exeter, which she said saved each institution around 40 per cent of the costs they might have incurred if they had done it alone.  

Resistance to service sharing could be due to fears about losing control and other concerns about partnership working, but these were all surmountable, according to Ms Lamond.

“I do think in order for it to have real traction in the sector it needs to be very strategically led from the top," she continued.

“And I’d start with those less contentious, less emotive services such as residential services, soft facilities management, sports facilities and areas where it is difficult to recruit staff, such as mental health services for students.

“I think there really is potential, particularly where there is close geography, but it does take an effort.”

Appearing on the same panel, Richard Calvert, deputy vice-chancellor (strategy and operations) at Sheffield Hallam University, admitted there was currently little service sharing with its neighbour, the University of Sheffield, but there was a feeling that “there ought to be”.

He said he could also see opportunities to collaborate with Sheffield College, a further education institution, but this would involve culture change across the three institutions.

“The direct competitiveness I think is, in many cities, overstated. I don’t think we go head-to-head with Sheffield for that many students and I think that is the case for a lot of cities where you have two or more institutions,” Mr Calvert added.

He said universities based in the same area had begun to work more closely together on the civic agenda, which might help to foster confidence in the value of working jointly.

Mr Calvert added: “I think part of the answer in how we do the harder bits of this is building confidence by working together on the easier areas: collaboration between people who are doing the same things but [that] are not fundamentally about your front-end competitiveness.”


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