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    p858snake's Avatar
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    Universities are crumbling, secret database reveals

    Universities are crumbling, secret database reveals
    Scores of university halls of residences and lecture theatres in the UK were judged "at serious risk of major failure or breakdown" and "unfit for purpose", a secret database obtained after a legal battle by the Guardian reveals.

    Some of the most popular, high-ranking institutions, such as the London School of Economics, had 41% of their lecture theatres and classrooms deemed unsuitable for current use, while Imperial *College London had 12% of its non-residential buildings branded "inoperable". At City University, 41% of the student digs were judged unfit for purpose.

    Universities argue they have spent hundreds of millions in refurbishment since the judgments were made two years ago and use some of the buildings for storage purposes only.

    The government agency that holds the information, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce), was forced to reveal it after an information tribunal ruled in the Guardian's favour, agreeing that it was in the public's interest for the data to be made public.

    Hefce is thought to have spent up to £50,000 trying to conceal the data from the Guardian, which requested it two and a half years ago. The newspaper's *barrister, Aidan Eardley, said the case would make it harder for government agencies to withhold information in future.

    The database, which aims to help universities compare the condition of their estate with their competitors, shows more than 90% of higher education institutions had at least 10% of their buildings judged below the "sound and operationally safe" category. One in 10 institutions had at least 10% of their estate judged inoperable and at serious risk of major breakdown.

    Universities employ surveyors to judge the condition of their estate according to four categories: as new; sound and operationally safe; operational but in need of major repair and inoperable; posing a serious risk of major failure and breakdown.

    The surveyors also record whether buildings are suitable for student living, teaching and learning under four more categories, from "excellent" to "unsuitable for current use".

    Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Leeds Metropolitan University and Nottingham Trent University had 42%, 36% and 21% respectively of their lecture theatres, libraries and all other non-residential buildings in the "inoperable" category.

    City and Glamorgan universities had 41% and 26% respectively of their halls of residence deemed unfit for purpose. The LSE, Glasgow School of Art and the university of Bolton had 41%, 34% and 27% of their lecture theatres and classrooms billed in this category.

    Property consultants who advise universities said that, at its most extreme, buildings deemed inoperable could break fire regulations, have leaks and rot.

    The database revelations come a week after the government announced that university grants for capital projects, such as new buildings, would be cut by 14.9% in cash terms to £562m in 2010-11. Vice-chancellors have said they will have to shelve new building plans to make the cuts.

    The LSE said it had spent more than £107m on new buildings while a spokesman for Imperial College said the institution had spent on average £100m annually over the last three years "to provide the highest quality facilities for its students and academic staff".

    Heriot-Watt said it had undertaken a "full condition" check of its buildings that was particularly rigorous and that millions had been spent on upgrades since then.
    Source: Universities are crumbling, secret database reveals | Education | The Guardian

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    Quote Originally Posted by p858snake View Post
    Some of the most popular, high-ranking institutions, ... while Imperial *College London had 12% of its non-residential buildings branded "inoperable".
    that's me, that is :-)

    Not sure if I'd brand this building "inoperable" but it's certainly grey, 60s concrete (unlike the building next door with its parquet floors and marble walls!). We do, however, have nice toilets so it's not all bad :-)

    On a serious note, I don't know how current the information is and how much account it takes of planned works. We had a massive programme of electrical testing over the summer to make sure that the fixed wiring, fuseboards etc were safe. All of this is necessary in order to get insurance for the buildings but I know that some of the wiring failed inspection so I'd guess that makes part of the building "inoperable". We have, however, got planned works coming up to replace the mains circuits which will fix this problem and funding is in place to do it.

    The other thing is that if we were to replace buildings which were in good condition just so that they don't deteriorate then we'd get accused of wasting money ("that building's perfectly good, why have you knocked it down?") but if you wait too long then you're accused of having buildings which are not good enough.

    Finally (he does go on, doesn't he!), we have a real problem with space. In order to replace this building you'd need to rehouse every one in it while it's demolished and replaced. There are about 87 rooms on my floor; I'd guess each holds an average of 4 people. The building has 9 floors - they don't all have so many people (there are lecture theatres and labs) but there's still a lot of people and "stuff" that would have to be moved (optical benches polished so smooth that apparently water would spread out to a single molecule layer!) so it's not just a case of finding a few spare rooms or sticking a portacabin in the (very small) car park.

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    AyatollahPies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by srochford View Post
    that's me, that is :-)

    We do, however, have nice toilets so it's not all bad :-)
    Often overlooked as being important. We all need somewhere pleasant to send texts messages or update our Facebook profile.

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    Quote Originally Posted by p858snake View Post
    Universities are crumbling, secret database reveals
    Is this something to do with salty beach sand being used to construct concrete buildings in the 60s? I seem to remember wandering around and seeing stalactites and stalagmites on many concrete buildings whilest I was at university - must pop back to visit and see if any have managed to join to make columns yet...

    --
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