Shared–use spaces, a generator for educators.

April 4, 2017    Andrew Peers     ,

Space is one of the major assets of an educational establishment and as budgetary pressures increase and the need to ‘achieve more with less’ in order to compete takes hold, one key question remains unanswered. How can you make every square foot of your educational space work as hard as possible?

Shared use is a concept that the education sector knows well – for decades teachers have shared classrooms and facilities in the delivery of countless different curriculum subjects. But perhaps the most interesting perspective on shared use is what several colleges, schools and universities are doing up and down the country – they’re sharing their spaces with the communities they live and work in.

Universities, colleges and schools are some of the least intensively used building we have. They receive little use in the evenings and are typically closed for about one quarter of the year. Contrast this with a hospital for example, which is used constantly every day of the year and you can see that educational buildings are not used to their full potential.

West Cheshire College near Ellesmere Port is a perfect example of how value can be unlocked from educational space. With its focus on vocational learning many of its teaching facilities also double-up as facilities and resources that the local community can use too. Training students manage the restaurant, which is open to all, as is the crèche and the beauty spa too. This approach not only gives students real life work experience as they train, but also sees the college facilities used outside of the traditional hours and by the community as a whole.

The University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council have taken the idea of shared facilities even further and created Europe’s first fully integrated, jointly funded university and public library. Students and residents make use of the facilities together with academic texts shelved with general interest books and dedicated spaces for studying and computing open to all. Hailed as a brilliant example of innovation, cost-saving and effective use of space, it shows what is possible with a more collaborative and commercially minded approach.

In Yorkshire, The University of Bradford offers unused space for rent to micro-start-ups looking for their first step on the ladder and meeting rooms for hire by local businesses. In Northampton, Northgate School Arts College regularly shares its teaching spaces with community and business groups outside of school hours too.

These examples show that educators have an opportunity to sweat their building assets and think differently about how they use and manage space in order to derive greater value. That value may simply be one of greater belonging in the local community, extending reach and profile through greater use or about generating new streams of revenue.

Space should be viewed as a hugely valuable resource that must not be wasted. If you’re not using it, ask yourself who else can and how its value can be unlocked.

To find out more about the education revolution, download our whitepaper When Education and the Workplace Collide, which is full of guidance and advice:

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