Five ways to attract students with fit-for-purpose, well maintained facilities

Could poor facility management be affecting your enrolments?

The quality of the learning experience you can provide is closely tied to the state of your facilities. After all, your campuses' functional areas support the approaches and technologies that contribute to expanding minds and ground-breaking research.

Applying innovative teaching methods can be stymied by old-fashioned, tech-deficient classrooms. Gaining new enrolments in fast-growing STEM fields is made more difficult without cutting-edge equipment, networks and laboratories, as well as the staples, like safe, well-lit environments, leisure spaces, parks, gardens and
outdoor seating.

It follows that in a competitive higher education market, how well you manage facilities over their life affects your performance, reputation and bottom line.

University leaders face tough questions about how to deal with ageing buildings while also financing new capital expenditure. Adding to the pressure on university executives is fluctuations in enrolments, questions over the sustainability of international student growth and the federal government's funding freeze.

Facilities management capabilities within your institution have never been more important.

An effective and holistic approach to facilities management in higher education must include a focus on these five elements:

1. Student appeal

New generations are digital natives—many are now more likely to trust social media over a university guide when researching where to study. But when it comes to what attributes they look for: university buildings and grounds matter. Students highly value study spaces like libraries and IT facilities, and the quality of these facilities is an important factor for students when choosing their university. Every higher education organisation needs to be confident in their ability to plan and fund new facilities and renewals designed to attract students.

2. Quality and risk

Inadequate facilities affect your ability to function in the same way that poor business systems do.The business model, operational, compliance, enrolment supply and reputational risks your university must address in today's volatile global market are all interdependent on the physical infrastructure your university manages. Proactive maintenance is essential to reduce risk: ensuring facilities are hazard-free, disaster-ready, and enhance personal safety and wellbeing of students. Predicting repair and replacement needs also keep facilities fit-for-purpose, which means their use can be optimised to ensure finite resources stretch further, and a faster return on investment for new facilities.

3. Digital self-service

Using technology to access information and services is second-nature for most of today's students. A survey of Australian students' ICT literacy found that 79 per cent of Year 10 students already had at least five years' of using digital devices under their belt. Comprehensive facilities management in higher education should include a self-service environment where staff and students have digital access to report issues. This approach helps you manage problems within published service level standards, which will improve their student experience.

4. Future of work

Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson has pointed to the need for providers to create a foundation for lifelong learning: preparing people for changing careers, up-skilling and re-skilling.

Many of the 20 most popular university courses chosen by Victorian school leavers in 2019 are in rapidly evolving fields where emerging technology will play a role, such as science, medicine, biomedicine and paramedicine. How do you determine what facilities to invest in, and when, without a 'big picture' view of asset lifecycle management?

5. Cross-institution collaboration

Managing a modern, complex network of assets depends on facilities management—but building projects, plans and maintenance are high-level concerns that impact your ability to attract, retain, service and teach students. It's important that the systems you use to manage facilities exist as part of an integrated approach to using data to drive workflows and decision-making across your institution.

All relevant business areas involved in the supply chain should be able to collaborate and work from the same database. Aggregated data should feed into financial and analytical dashboards that give leaders the insights required for decision-making.

Making room for learning to occur is increasingly dependent on the physical environment. Being able to understand the condition, cost and utility of assets over time will determine whether your facilities successfully underpin the services and learning experiences you want to deliver.

With integrated systems, you can more proactively plan investment and adapt to changes in the higher education system. Taking a holistic view of facilities management gives you an edge: helping you to attract and retain students, remain relevant and boost revenue in the long term.

Discover More:

How to meet student needs in a changing digital economy

How COVID-19 and evolving technologies have impacted student expectations

Customer perspective: Transforming the employee and student experience

Publish date

13 Nov 2020

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