At UPP, our approach links businesses and profitability to public good – the future of our higher education sector – in a meaningful, long-term way that we believe will outlive any corporate responsibility strategy.
The problem is this: In the UK there is a huge need for investment in higher education infrastructure. The higher education estate is about the same size as that of the NHS. However, approximately a quarter of current university infrastructure – buildings, lecture theatres, student unions and halls of residence – are in need of complete refurbishment or replacement.
At the same time, students are rightly becoming increasingly savvy, as they choose their university, looking at all aspects of what’s on offer – from contact hours and teaching quality to sports facilities, catering services and importantly Wi-Fi provision. Our universities need to make big investments in such facilities and services to remain world leaders in an increasingly competitive and global education market.
At UPP we create long-term public-private partnerships (PPPs) with universities to provide much needed investment in academic and residential infrastructure and services. To an investor, a university is a good bet. They provide long-term, secure and stable returns at low-risk: some universities in this country have secured a credit rating similar to that of the UK itself. Universities enjoy the benefits of improved facilities without the cost and — when the partnership ends — they own the asset.
We bring much needed investment into higher education from the private sector in a way that benefits the public institutions we support, our investors and – ultimately – our business. The Partnerships we create typically last for fifty years or more and in some case up to 125 years, so our business relies on a thriving university sector: when they succeed, we succeed.
Our business model ensures that we work hard to keep our public sector partners as world leaders. We get involved in issues that have an impact on the sector and bring our expertise in finance and innovation to help the sector solve the problems it faces. The principles of the Partnership model mean that our connection to the public and social institutions we work with is part of everything we do.
Sean O’Shea is Chief Executive Officer, UPP. As CEO, Sean is responsible for determining all aspects of the future strategic direction of UPP Group.