Good facilities management helps keep colleges and universities running smoothly and productively so they’re prepared to handle the many challenges that inevitably arise.

How well a higher education institution manages its facilities can directly affect its reputation, impact staff and student satisfaction rates, and even serve as a significant driver for enrollment.

In this article, we will look at why facilities management is important, what it entails, and the challenges FM teams may face at higher ed institutions. We’ll also touch on how facilities management software like FMX can help.

Why is facilities management important for universities and colleges?

There are many reasons why effective facilities management is essential for universities and colleges, but some of the most notable include: 

  • Improving safety and compliance
  • Reducing costs
  • Optimizing workflows
  • Boosting student enrollment

Let’s look at why each of these is important in more detail.

Improving safety and compliance

The safety of students and staff is a top priority for all higher education institutions. Facilities management is vital in providing adequate security and ensuring they comply with all relevant regulations. 

Facilities management teams are responsible for adherence to all health, safety, and building regulations, which, as a result, improves the comfort and well-being of occupants.

For instance, routine audits and inspections of safety measures, electrical systems, and HVAC systems reduce the risk of penalties while improving students’ and staff’s comfort and safety. 

Likewise, installing and maintaining security systems such as cameras and alarms, ensuring the availability of first aid kits, and reducing trip hazards can all contribute to a safer and more compliant environment.

For facilities management teams at colleges and universities, ensuring safety and compliance is essential as a legal obligation and commitment to occupant welfare.

Reducing costs

Effective facilities management can help reduce costs in several ways, such as minimizing unwanted downtime, increasing staff productivity, and improving energy efficiency and sustainability.

How exactly? Well, for instance, regular maintenance can prolong the lifespan of equipment and infrastructure, reducing the need for costly repairs or replacements. This also helps minimize downtime, affecting staff productivity and specific revenue streams, like scientific research. 

Likewise, improving energy efficiency through measures such as LED lighting, solar power, and insulation can reduce costs over the long term. Sustainably measures like recycling and waste reduction can also lower operational costs.

These are just a few examples; there are numerous other ways in which effective facilities management can improve the financial health of higher education institutions.

Optimizing workflows

An effective facilities management team enables strong communication across departments, which helps optimize workflows. Likewise, staying up to date on maintenance tasks also contributes to workflow optimization.

For instance, a facilities management team might use facilities management software, enabling all departments to streamline communication and resolve facilities-related issues quickly from a single platform.

Facilities management software could also notify staff to any changes in building access due to repairs or upgrades. Faculty can check the availability of facilities, like labs or sports fields, on an integrated calendar and schedule sessions. Having information like this readily accessible through facilities management software prevents bottlenecks and improves efficiency.

Regular and preventive maintenance of facilities and equipment helps eliminate unexpected disruptions to classes, research, and other activities, ensuring smooth academic and operational workflows.

Increase student enrollment

Over one third of students consider the quality of the school’s buildings and overall campus a key factor in their decision to attend. Hence, strong facilities management can be a driving force for increasing student enrollment and even retention.

Over one-third of students consider the quality of the school's buildings and overall campus a key factor in their decision to attend, according to a statistic by Western Kentucky University.

For instance, well-maintained buildings, beautifully landscaped green spaces, efficient heating and cooling systems, reliable Wi-Fi, and modern, clean facilities can create a positive first impression on visitors and potential students and impact their decision-making process. 

The University of Maine is living proof. After renovations and facility upgrades, they saw an increase in freshman enrollment by 10%.

The facts tell us that if buildings have visible flaking-off paint, broken equipment or furniture, litter on the premises, and unclean restrooms, this creates a strong negative first impression. 

Many students also want to enroll in climate-friendly colleges, so demonstrating your sustainability practices, like solar panels and efficient waste management systems, can attract environmentally-conscious students. 

Likewise, well-maintained gyms and sports complexes will entice students interested in athletics and fitness, and state-of-the-art laboratories can help draw in science enthusiasts.

What is facility management for higher education facilities?

Facility management in higher education is a multi-faceted role, vital for creating a conducive, safe, and efficient learning environment.

It involves various tasks to ensure the smooth operation of the campus and the safety, comfort, and health of students. 

Here’s a breakdown of what it entails:

  1. Custodial services: Planning and managing custodial services across campus is critical. This involves coordinating the cleaning and maintenance of all buildings and spaces to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for all.
  2. Reactive maintenance: Facility managers handle many reactive maintenance requests from teachers, faculty, staff, and others. This involves addressing immediate concerns, such as broken equipment or infrastructure issues, to minimize disruption on campus.
  3. Preventive maintenance: Preventive maintenance refers to the scheduling of regular inspections and maintenance work for buildings, facilities, equipment, and assets to prevent major faults and prolong their lifecycle.
  4. Systems management: Ensuring the health, performance, and continuous availability of critical systems across the campus, like HVAC, electrical, and plumbing systems, is another crucial role. Facility managers ensure these systems are running efficiently and resolve any issues promptly.
  5. Capital improvement projects: Facility managers lead and support capital improvement project needs such as construction and repair. They liaise with contractors, manage budgets, and ensure projects are completed on time and to standard.
  6. Inventory management: Another responsibility is to manage inventory, such as light bulbs and cleaning supplies, to ensure optimal capacity and support. They ensure supplies are well-stocked and available when needed.
  7. Stakeholder engagement: Facility managers often confer with administrators, instructors, department heads, students, and the public regarding the use of college facilities for various activities. They ensure that the needs and concerns of all stakeholders are considered and addressed.
  8. Facilities scheduling: They coordinate the use of building facilities with student groups, faculty, administration, and civic groups. This involves scheduling requests and organizing the use of spaces to meet various needs and events.
  9. Campus grounds management: Managing campus landscaping is also part of their role. This involves overseeing the maintenance and aesthetics of outdoor spaces to create an attractive and inviting environment.

The challenges schools face with facilities management

Facilities management in a higher education setting is a dynamic situation where unforeseen challenges can arise at any moment, so facilities management teams must be quick and well-prepared to react.

However, some common challenges FM teams face in colleges and universities include:

Infrastructure and maintenance challenges

Many universities and colleges are housed in beautiful historic buildings. While there is certainly a positive side to this, it can also bring difficult and costly challenges when it comes to maintenance and repair, especially in buildings over 100 years old. Older buildings tend to have aging infrastructure, hence why leaky roofs and deteriorating pipes plague many higher ed campuses.

Modern-day challenges

With technology evolving so rapidly, keeping educational facilities updated with the latest equipment can be costly and difficult. Likewise, keeping up with modern-day demands and trends—such as creating environmentally-friendly campuses, establishing gender-neutral facilities, and enhancing resistance to cyber threats—can be challenging.

Operational and regulatory challenges

Colleges and universities may struggle to find and retain the skilled staff they need for various facilities management tasks. It can also be time-consuming and demanding to navigate local, state, and federal regulations regarding safety, accessibility, and environmental impact and comply with the APPA standards on educational facilities.

Communication and system challenges

Managing inspection steps, work requests, preventive maintenance schedules, and integrating systems can be time-consuming and requires meticulous planning and execution. Many institutions struggle to utilize their current systems effectively or lack a proper system, often resorting to basic tools like Excel for data management and email for communication.

How can facilities maintenance software help?

FMX facilities management software for higher education provides a single system for cohesive system oversight. Schedule university events, track equipment and assets, schedule work requests to maintain university grounds and buildings, and use reporting features to improve efficiency and cut costs. 

FMX facilities management software for higher education uses capital forecasting features to track total forecasted replacement costs, estimated replacement cost per equipment type, and top equipment by maintenance costs.

FM teams in higher ed can leverage FMX to access all the necessary tools and data to operate effectively and efficiently. With facilities management software, your team can:

FMX uses a single-interface facilities management solution to enable colleges and universities to improve student retention, drive new enrollment, and help ensure all occupants’ safety, health, and well-being.

Would you like to learn more about FMX’s facility management software for your college or university? We’re ready to help. Book a demo today!

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