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Universities & Higher Education

Our mission is to provide an outstanding service to leading and ambitious universities and higher education institutions. Built on our deep sector knowledge and experience, we have a track record of innovation, thought leadership, and getting things done.

Our Universities & Higher Education group includes over 150 lawyers based in our offices in the UK, Middle East and Asia Pacific. We draw on the full resources of Pinsent Masons to cover the range of legal disciplines.  We advise both UK and international institutions - whether publicly funded or private, charitable or for-profit.

UK universities are at an evolutionary turning point.  The era of generous state support is over.  As the funding of HE transforms, students and student demand will have a greater influence on the shape of the sector and of individual institutions.  The UK government is using policy changes and legislation to create a more favourable environment for private, for-profit and international institutions to set up in competition with existing, state supported and charitable universities. 

UK universities are strongly autonomous institutions with the ability to develop their own institutional and collective strategies in response to this changing environment.  Strategic thinkers will see opportunities to make significant operational reforms which will stand them in good stead for the challenges of the future.

At the same time, there is increasing interest by reputable international institutions in entering the UK market.  We have helped two of them to do so, and to establish themselves as charities.  We also advise UK institutions on HE collaborations and joint ventures with partners worldwide.

Our ground-breaking work helps institutions make the most of their assets and prepare for tomorrow's opportunities and challenges:

Mergers and collaborations

  • In the future, as well as likely mergers and break-ups in the sector, we will see more collaboration of different kinds between universities, higher education institutions and into other sectors, combined with competition. We advise on major university- NHS collaborations.  We advised UCL and the School of Pharmacy, University of London on their recent merger.

Global higher education

  • We advised the University of Liverpool in establishing Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University in Suzhou.  This was a JV with a  leading Chinese university, funded by a US for-profit HE provider.  We also advise inward investors to the UK – such as the University of Chicago in setting up its Booth School of Business in London.
  • Advising University of Aberdeen on the spin out and subsequent world wide licensing to drug development company Modern Biosciences plc at the University's compounds for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and other inflammatory diseases.

Structured solutions to make the most of university assets

  • We have great experience of a range of models for partnering between publicly funded universities and the private sector (providers and funders) for student accommodation and wider estate enhancement and modernisation schemes.  Going beyond the physical estate, we are developing a range of solutions which use partnering models to maximise resources, or to raise capital sums and new streams of revenue in the current tight funding environment. For example, outsourcing and sharing services will inevitably form a more significant part of the higher education landscape in future.
  • Advising Queen's University, Belfast in relation to its development and construction of the ECIT building at the Northern Ireland Science Park and the new library building.
  • Advising the University of Aberdeen on the procurement of Aberdeen Sports Village, new library facility, merger with the Rowett Research Institute and the ongoing collaboration between the University and NHS Grampian at Foresterhill.
  • Advising the University of Strathclyde on delivery models for the Sport and Health Facility.

We are involved with policy development in UK higher education both through a number of forums at national level, and through our own initiatives.  We don’t just follow the sector's progress but contribute to and help shape the debate about its future.

Case Studies