Diversification is the answer
01/06/2013

Diversification provides new commercial opportunities and an improved customer offer to support university business

The challenges facing the HE sector in the UK are well documented and much commented upon. Austerity measures and reduced funding for universities in England and Wales have led many to consider innovative and alternative funding models.
The use of university assets for commercial purposes is nothing new. Providing good quality conference, meetings, catering and events services is well established, with successful operators competing directly with the private sector. This activity enables additional income generation to allow continued reinvestment and improvement.

The University of Sheffield is currently undertaking significant investment in the student experience, enhancing and improving its facilities in its vision to be one of the best universities in the world. The University led the way with its groundbreaking deal to improve student accommodation, achieving recognition by winning the inaugural Uliving CUBO Best Housing Award in 2012 and consistently appearing amongst the top universities in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey.

In developing its five-year strategic plan in 2012, Accommodation and Commercial Services recognised that it had to ensure its future plans were aligned to, and in support of, the University’s aims at every level. Up until then, the team had focused its operational strategy on organic development, by focusing on its established services and growing market share and penetration. This strategy had shown demonstrable success, but the team wanted to challenge its thinking by considering new ideas.

Diversification was the answer - using its existing assets and core capabilities - to increase sales volume from new products and new markets. Diversification can be expanding into a new segment of an industry that the business is
already in, or investing in a promising business outside of the scope of the existing business. As part of this diversification strategy, the team are developing two new ventures across campus, taking it into the commercial hotel and restaurant sectors for the very first time.

Halifax Hall is a £2m development of a former Hall of Residence into a 38-bedroom boutique-style hotel and conference centre, providing quality residential accommodation for the University, visitors and external guests. The venue will enhance the hotel offer within the city and provide an appropriate location to develop beneficial partnerships and engage with stakeholders and the community.

The second new venture is the creation of a 100-cover restaurant offering a contemporary British menu with daily specials from around the world, stylishly designed with exceptional views of the University’s historic Firth Court. Ideally located at the heart of the campus and part of a £20m refurbishment of a landmark building, the restaurant will provide the University community with a focal point for entertaining, events and special occasions.