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Oct 04

RADAR Roundtable Output – Achieving Changes Through University Estates Projects by Ian Caldwell

A higher education roundtable led by Ian Caldwell of King’s College University London and founder of the Higher Education Design Quality Forum, chaired by Julie Wood, Global Leader for Programme and Project Management at Arup, hosted by ResoLex on 29th September 2016.

True to form the drama was presented in terms of an engaging presentation of case studies showing opportunities seized and opportunities lost some of which might even be termed as tragedies. The premise being that there is a clear link between capital projects and a university’s academic journey with real potential to support or hinder the achievement of corporate goals through estates projects selected and their outcomes.

The Roundtable is part of the knowledge community created by ResoLex and is set against the background of the ResoLex research paper ‘What do want to learn?’, A systemic perspective on stakeholder communication and risk mitigation on major capital projects in the higher education sector.

HE RADAR Roundtable

It was overwhelmingly agreed that within higher education, stakeholders are clever people who have an expectation to be engaged. It is vital to compressively identity the key stakeholders for engagement and above all else who have to be listened to. University stakeholders have a long outreach and can readily use the media to present their case if they feel they are not being heard and understood. The overriding critical tactic emerged as that of “Showing people you are doing your best to give them what they want.”. New and better techniques for engaging with stakeholders within the sector remain of paramount importance.

The biggest risk is that of not delivering the capital asset actually required and flexible modular designs are high on the list of design criteria. It is essential to have good engagement with two groups of stakeholders – students and academics.

While it is important that there is room to think within the building the completed building has to go with operating methods. Space cost and utilisation are two extremely important performance indicators. Other drivers are programme, rationale, performance and the means of measuring success.

The briefing process must be done effectively. Critical factors are vision, strategy and the balance between descriptive and prescriptive.

The change management process associated with estates projects needs to include change management of the work stream and include ways of working, storage and archiving, senior user group and leadership community consultation. The only acceptable criteria are good/ slightly less good/ very good. The question is “How to achieve consensus leadership at all levels?” Again stakeholder engagement is to the fore particularly engagement strategy in terms of “How much, to whom and when?”

open plan

An interesting current question is “What are the Brexit lessons?” Are there carrots and sticks? It is important to remember the importance of framing propositions in terms of positives or negatives.

Change management is necessary in addition to project management. Change management is as important as project management. Change management can be the building a bond. There is frequently a lack of functional mix. It is like a counselling exercise!

It is vital to consider what examples are there elsewhere. What prototypes are there relating to flexibility and change?

Student pressure can influence academics. It is important to engage with the students’ union and to sell project involvement to students.


Open plan gives efficiency and is the most efficient use of space. Cost is not accepted as a driver. There is a hurdle to overcome of not knowing anything different. When considering open plan as a driver there is a need to remember that academics don’t collaborate! Research is important and so too is teaching. There is a need to find the driver for cellular office. Is it status? Beware of political games! The legal profession is an example of what can be achieved. In higher education “open plan” remain emotive words. There remains a need to revisit cellularisaton. Agile working needs to be looked at. Space needs to be created that has a purpose.

Good engagement is necessary to identify the brake to change and answer the question of why is there a natural resistance to change. Change through projects is natural however there is need to be ready for resistance and the asking of the question “Why change?” There are big cultural issues attached to change and change management is closely linked to culture management. Stakeholders frequently ask “If no one else is changing why are we?” The corporate workspace model doesn’t provide readymade answers. There is a need to show understanding of unique circumstances.

Good quality furniture and storage are a given. Academics need help in digitising and clearing out unwanted documents. Opportunities need to be created to learn from others, be involved in benchmarking, find new ways of teaching. Students are “modern” and flexible. Academics less so. Two worlds are emerging – students and academics. Decisions require to be made in relation to academic leadership.

An emerging requirement is for a new generation of skills and strong leadership and the ability to listen to people. It is not for the estates department to establish the brief.

Futureproofing is at the centre of any new capital project. “How do you provide buildings for 5-10 years’ time?”

It is important to remember the market we are in. There is a very real tension between growth to bring in more money and delivering quality space.

Attendees to the Roundtable are invited to continue the discussion on the LinkedIn RADAR group.

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