Mapping London’s HE Estates


This week’s blog piece is guest written by Paresh Shah, Acting Head of London Higher’s Case for HE division. Thanks Paresh!

As most people know, London has an extremely diverse base of higher education institutions (HEIs).  Across the 40 institutions receiving recurrent government funding based in the capital there is a full range including large to medium sized multi-faculty HEIs to much smaller specialists in performing arts, business studies or biosciences.  And this is not including the 20 FE colleges, 30 campus centres, 30 overseas HEIs and 100 alternative providers based in London!  In order to deliver their educational programmes to London-based students, over 1,600 buildings are used by the ‘mainstream’ HEIs with 1,200 of the buildings providing facilities for teaching, research or central services.  The total gross internal area (GIA) is estimated to cover 3.5 km2 for non-residential estates and 1 km2 for residential buildings.

But with space in central London always at a premium, this poses a challenge to HEIs and HE providers based in the capital.  There is little opportunity to expand their teaching and research space or to provide suitable student accommodation, and yet many HEIs need to be able to do both to keep up with their standards of excellence and demands of changing times.

It is therefore good news for many of London’s HEIs that with improved transport connections (Crossrail 1 and 2 and the Bakerloo and Northern Line extensions), new areas of London will soon become accessible to site new facilities.  Alongside these infrastructure developments, the Mayor’s Office and the Greater London Authority (GLA) are looking at the HE sector to deliver HE-led regeneration opportunities across the 33 London boroughs and 35 Local Planning Authorities.  Recognising a key need for many member institutions, London Higher has been supporting a project led by the University of London for the past two years, which aims to digitally map the HE estates in London.  Working together with additional partners, including the GLA and the British Property Federation, this project has produced an exciting new resource for HEIs seeking to expand their physical space.  The digital maps produced by the project provide details for each individual building, such as proportions of GIA used for teaching library space or laboratories.  Overlays include transport links; regeneration zones; current and proposed student accommodation, as well as locations of FE and sixth form colleges.

The maps were launched at City Hall in June 2018, and have since been used as a visualisation tool to spark broader conversations about HE and local government collaborations, as well as focussed discussions about specific locations and opportunities for building and regeneration.  A recent meeting with the LGIU produced a range of suggestions for future work on local government strategic partnerships.  The project continues to develop, with the next phase set to include an update of the current information on HE estates and further integration of data on knowledge exchange activities such as spin-offs, equipment hire and consultancy contracts.  All of these will ensure that the maps are an efficient and effective tool to help with future planning for London’s HEIs.

This June, as part of the inaugural London HE Week, there will be a unique opportunity to experience the digital maps first-hand in order to fully appreciate the diversity, challenge and potential for regeneration partnerships in strategic planning for HE estates in the capital.  The event, held on the 20th June, is organised jointly by London Higher, London First and the University of London and is open to all. For further details and to register, visit https://www.londonhigher.ac.uk/events/london-he-week/.