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Don't let the tail wag the dog

Jeremy Wilson of GVA Grimley describes the issues for property management in FE. "Finance and property issues in a London environment are absolutely fundamental and can start to become the tail that wags the dog because of the scale of the potential underlying value in the asset base.

"For the Westminster-Kingsway merger, we generated a space-needs model irrespective of sites and driven by broad views as to how the merged college would eventually be operating in terms of curriculum.

"Then we looked at the extent to which the existing asset base matched the planned future needs. We were then able to outline a strategy direction for a change in the estate.

"There's still a lot of detailed work to do in terms of converting that outline business plan into a detailed strategic plan. For example, they have a very big hotel and catering operation. It's critical that the location of that is supported by the employers and businesses in that sector.

"FE has many parallels with work we did in te polytechnic sector: if you can get the big picture developed for an institution, in terms of how it can provide the best use of its accommodation base. Then the penny drops and all the project decisions which flow from that then fall logically into place.

"Many property consultants have had a go in this sector and given up. They come across all kinds of educational issues which they don't want to deal with. Consultants have to be market focused. Education can be complicated because a lot of the decisions are driven by public policy.

"We come acrosscolleges who know that they cannot continue to operate any longer without rationalising - but they aren't quite sure which would be the best option, and that's where we help them. The last thing colleges should do is go to consultants and say: 'We've got a problem - can you go and produce a strategy and put it into place?' That way liesdisaster."

GVA Grimley Estates Management 020 7911 2422

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