PERTH’S universities are capitalising on their sizeable land holdings in an effort to remain viable in the increasingly competitive world of tertiary eduction.
In order to fund capital works programs, some Perth universities are entering into partnerships and collaborative ventures with business groups and local authorities to develop campus land.
Murdoch University has recently signed a heads of agreement with the Wesfarmers Energy Division to develop a $10 million office building on its South Street campus. The university plans to commence construction on the building this year, which will ultimately be leased back by Wesfarmers Energy Division.
It is not the first time the university has aligned itself with private interests. In the late 1990s Murdoch agreed to the $44 million development of a St Ives retirement village on the South Street campus. The final stages of the village are to be completed throughout 2004 and 2005.
Last year the University of Western Australia successfully forged closer industry links through its joint venture with communications company giant, Motorola, to develop the Motorola software research and development facility on the UWA Nedlands campus. Motorola contributed $35 million towards the project.
In an indication of greater integration of university land with the surrounding community, UWA is currently in talks with the Town of Nedlands and City of Subiaco over the development of a structure plan that involves the creation of an urban village centred on the high street of Broadway.
This more integrated approach involves the relocation of campus features such as the university bookshop to off-campus locations, and a greater focus on partnerships and collaborative ventures with business or government bodies.
An off-campus site between Fairway and Broadway is still being considered for the proposed $30 million business precinct for the undergraduate and graduate business schools.
University architect planner Frank Roberts said the trend was towards removing the ivory tower feel of university campuses and creating more integrated development between the university and the community.
“There are some things that would operate better in an off-campus location,” he said.
Mr Roberts said the new integrated approach was driven by a variety of factors, including the need for expansion sensitive to the surrounding community, an increasing focus on postgraduate and professional top-up courses, and the need for greater revenue generation.
“However, we wouldn’t release sites just for profit reasons, there has got to be some type of synergy involved,” Mr Roberts said.
The consolidation of Edith Cowan University to its Joondalup and Mt Lawley campuses is well under way. The university is poised to announce the successful tenderer of the 99-year lease of its Claremont campus and is expecting to receive planning approval for the redevelopment of its Churchlands campus into a residential estate at the end of the year.
Revenue generated by the consolidation will be channelled into the university’s planned investment of $175 million in new facilities over the next five years.
Edith Cowan University director of facilities and services, Andrew Branston, said the move to consolidate from four to two campuses gave the university greater economies of scale and would enable it to develop the quality facilities and services required in the increasingly competitive world of tertiary education.
Mr Branston said in order to bolster those opportunities the university would like to foster more business partnerships.
“Like everyone, we are looking for those partnerships, it just depends what platform you build them from,” he told WA Business News.
Only the Curtin University of Technology is bucking the trend towards alignment with business or industry in order to develop campus land.
Curtin general manager of properties Martin Dunleavy said the university was currently not involved in any programs for the development of university land, and building works planned for 2004 involved only the refurbishment of existing structures.
However, Mr Dunleavy said the university did have strong links with the local business community and might consider business partnerships involving university land in future.