Landscapers eye university opportunities

Universities view green space as a selling point when seeking to attract students willing or able to pay high tuition fees.

Nottingham: second in GreenMetric Ranking of World Universities
Nottingham: second in GreenMetric Ranking of World Universities

Landscape contractors are seeing a rise in opportunities from the higher-education sector amid an otherwise challenging and cost-conscious market.

As universities compete to attract students who are willing or able to pay high tuition fees, they increasingly view green space and quality landscaping as a selling point to grow their admissions.

Churchman Landscape Architects director Andrew Thornhill said: "The tertiary education sector is very good at the moment. They're looking at their external environment now. Before it was purely a cost, now they're seeing it as an asset that could be developed."

He said he is looking at work at Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of East Anglia and the University of Warwick.

Farrer Huxley Associates director and Landscape Institute board member Noel Farrer said: "Universities are starting to say: 'Hang on a minute, we are in a marketplace. We need to look good.' Students are becoming customers and they are seeing they need to be more active."

The Green Flag Awards scheme has seen increased interest from universities. A record 11 campuses won awards in 2012 and it reported a "large increase in applications from higher-education institutions as the potential of a Green Flag Award has been embraced in the quest to attract students".

The University of Nottingham's decade-long Green Flag status helped it to be named second most sustainable university in the world in the GreenMetric Ranking of World Universities run by the University of Indonesia.

Nurture Landscapes managing director Peter Fane said his company, which looks after the landscape maintenance of several commercial parks, is looking to bring the same standards to bear in a forthcoming bid for a tender at Cranfield University.

"Universities have got their image and reputation to think about and it's a sector that's growing. Cranfield representatives recently visited some of our sites and they have definitely decided they want to improve the look of their campus and to upgrade from what they've got." Students value high-quality landscapes for study and leisure

A high-quality flexible landscape is quite important for students. It makes the place seem more homely and they can use the space for studying and leisure. We have a well-established landscape strategy and give priority to landscape. We are increasing biodiversity and providing habitats for wildlife, and have created a new wood with public access. Students and visitors have been quite educated in this area in recent years. You would be surprised how much the students know about biodiversity."

Desmond O'Grady, grounds manager, University of Nottingham.

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