New EMR report and statement from AUDE and partners
6th January 2021
AUDE has released it's Higher Education Estates Management Report 2020
and a statement alongside other key organisations on the necessity of the EMR data.
This report represents the hard facts and accurate data for big choices in estates management and future investment. By bench marking institutions against others, of similar size, or similar teaching/research bias, the report makes it clear that the performance of the overall university estate is as strong as it has ever been, and we should recognise and acknowledge the immense efforts of universities across the country in delivering that.
Inevitably the Covid-19 public health emergency provides a challenging and unexpected context for this year’s report. The data used in this year’s analysis will be more useful than ever in benchmarking, as it marks the line between a pre-Covid and a post-Covid estates world; and more so perhaps because of the speed institutions have been working at, the crisis accelerating change in an extraordinary way.
The report clearly acknowledges the immense efforts of estates and facilities teams throughout the ongoing pandemic. Many universities are justly proud that they have been able to switch focus to their roles within civic communities as active participants in finding local solutions, in supporting the NHS, and of course in many cases to the huge research task too. At a time when flexibility is demanded of us all, the value of a national dataset setting in stone the annual position for us to use in developing our own institutional estates strategies, is emphasised yet again
AUDE is joined by sector colleagues including AHUA, BUFDG, HESPA, The Climate Commission and UUK in sending an open letter reminder on the importance and value of EMR data and HESA data submission.
Is submitting EMR data mandatory? Maybe not. Essential? Yes.
AUDE argues that we make the simplest decisions in our everyday lives using the data that is available to guide us. The common-sense practicality of this knowledge informs the call from sector leaders at AUDE, AHUA, BUFDG, HESPA and Universities UK as universities prepare once more for the annual task of HESA data submissions. Without data, how do we make decisions? Among the most important decisions universities face are those connected to the very fabric of their campus buildings, and their estates strategies. Those strategies are underpinned by HESA data which is analysed annually on behalf of the sector in AUDE’s Estates Management report
Since 2019 the submission of the EMR data to HESA has not been mandatory in England and Northern Ireland, though it remains so in Scotland and Wales. This has created an anomalous position which risks the long-term integrity of a dataset which is vital to the successful running of universities - across all four nations. Via the publication of the EMR, VCs and estates directors are able to benchmark the performance of their own estates against comparable institutions. It is a bedrock document for every university.
Why is the EMR data so important – to universities and to the sector?
- It informs the estates strategy in every single UK university by allowing close comparison of data in similar institutions
- At a time of immense change and challenge it is a complete national data set which supports decision-making in every area of the estates remit from our largest capital expenditure developments to our smallest maintenance spend
- The EMR carries historical meaning, allowing us to understanding changing cost and expenditure patterns over many years
- Finance Directors use condition data within the EMR to infer financial sustainability, as well as capital and maintenance budget requirements
- The EMR is a critical data source for Universities UK’s work on efficiencies and costs
- This data is frequently referenced in the Valuation Office Agency’s work on rates revaluation
- EMR data facilitates the collection of Scope 3 carbon emissions data, required as part of the Climate Change Act
- The Sustainability Leadership Scorecard, the sector-leading AUDE/EAUC tool that helps universities plan and prioritise their sustainability activity, uses EMR data
AUDE has four KPIs for its members to use in estates management work – efficiency, quality, value and sustainability – and all four use EMR data.
The risk to this dataset is that it gets less and less complete over time, as first one university and then more no longer submit the data – at which point its usefulness to all of us is badly diminished. It is therefore vital to us all that we continue to submit this data to HESA even where this is no longer mandatory.
Stephen Wells, Director of Estates, Facilities and Commercial Services at the University of Surrey, and AUDE Chair,
said: “We have to do everything we can to maintain the integrity of this dataset, which is why AUDE is joining in this call to remind universities of the importance of this aspect of the annual HESA data submission. The EMR data is an immensely useful working tool. It promotes cross-sector working as well as the kind of benchmarking that can bring real insight to estates strategy. This year for instance Surrey and Lancaster have worked together on value-for-money and student experience projects based on links forged via this data. The entire sector would miss this data is if loses its national integrity and value. In this second year of a new system let’s embed this understanding for future years. Mandatory? Maybe not. Essential, yes.”
Karel Thomas, Executive Director of BUFDG (the British Universities Finance Directors’ Group)
said: “Finance Directors value good data that provide robust evidence for sound business decision-making. The EMR has become a key source of such evidence and we look forward to using it well into the future.”
Sally Turnbull, Assistant Director Transformation at the University of Hull and Chair of HESPA’s Higher Education Data Insight Group
said: “Data has never been more important, nor more widely used in decision-making, forward planning and performance analysis than it is now. While the Office for Students may no longer require the EMR for its purposes, the value of this collection to the sector as a whole remains. This year more than any other has seen significant changes to our uses of buildings and the wider estate and we need to understand this. More and more Providers are committing to carbon reduction and broader sustainability goals and we need to be able to monitor our impact and change what we are doing where we do not see the outcomes we hope for. UK higher education is currently in the privileged position of having access to a wealth of useful and usable data: we all need to act to ensure this remains the case in future years.”
A statement on this issue from the Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education says:
"The Climate Commission recognises the significant progress made by universities and colleges in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and has set out further ambitions for progress. Timely, comparable, and comprehensive data is crucial for higher education institutions to demonstrate their accountability – to their staff, students, local and global stakeholders. EMR data is a significant source of information and should continue to play a critical role in universities measuring their progress to address the climate emergency."