Call for money-spinning campuses

26th January 1996 at 00:00
Colleges are not doing enough to ensure they get the best value for money from their land and buildings, according to a new report.

The study of estate management in further education colleges sets out a series of steps needed to help get maximum cost effectiveness on campuses.

The recommendations, commissioned by the Further Education Funding Council and drawn up by a private firm of property advisers, effectively push colleges to consider giving a greater role to outside contractors and consultants, rather than running buildings and services in-house.

They reflect a culture change running at varying speeds in the sector as colleges are encouraged to become entrepreneurial after quitting local authority control.

The report, which is accompanied by a good practice guide, comes less than two months after the Budget announcement that the Government is to axe Pounds 100 million capital cash from the further education sector over three years.

Included in the latest advice is a recommendation that colleges should keep close track of the skills needed to manage their estates.

They will then be able to find the best balance between in-house tasks and work which can be farmed out to consultants and contractors.

Colleges also need to put out work to tender more often in order to get the most cost-effective deal, says the report. Though all those in the sample of 40 institutions included in the study were found to tender major capital projects such as accommodation blocks, few did the same for smaller schemes.

In a further recommendation, managers are advised to consider more carefully the option of contracting out campus services such as catering to contractors and consultants.

Colleges were urged last year to consider forming partnerships with private-sector organisations as part of the Government's Private Finance Initiative - designed to relieve the burden of capital funding from the Treasury.

The new manual will give principals practical advice on drawing up tenders and outline "the common pitfalls which lie in wait for the unwary estates manager".

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