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Head of Transactions, Urban Regeneration
Legal & General Capital
In Oxford, there are more jobs than people, with some 46,000 individuals commuting into the city for work.1 Universities are a key driver for the growth of cities, and Oxford is already one of the UK’s fastest growing cities, but its lack of affordable residential and commercial space is making it hard to attract research graduates and scale-up businesses – things that are needed to really make this city and its economy thrive.
So we’ve partnered with the University of Oxford to provide the most significant development in its history. The 50:50 partnership, called Oxford University Development, will see the wider Legal & General business provide up to £4 billion of funding and development expertise, as part of a seven-point plan over the next 10 years, in a combined effort from Legal & General Retirement, Legal & General Capital and Legal & General Investment Management.
“This is a really crucial project,” says Anna Strongman, who is leading the partnership on behalf of Legal & General and Oxford University. “Oxford is an internationally renowned centre for innovation, but to continue to attract the best talent the city needs renewed infrastructure. One of the key components of our master plan is to not only build out space for researchers, scientists and educators, but to create affordable, high-quality homes for a range of people to live in.”
The first stage of the investment is a £200 million Life and Mind Building, a world-class home for the university’s departments of Zoology, Plant Sciences and Experimental Psychology. In light of the pandemic, this development has been prioritised, with planning permission approval expected soon. “There was an acknowledgement about the importance of life sciences and experimental sciences given where we are in the world at the moment with the pandemic, ”explains Ellie Jukes, Senior Investment Manager at Legal & General Capital.
The Life and Mind Building will open in 2024, and will be outward-facing, with conference areas and lecture theatres, so people all over the world can see the work the university is doing and the fruits of this investment.
The partnership will heavily support the wider city by providing commercial space for university spin-out and scale-up businesses and 2 million sq ft of space for science and innovation, as well as 1,000 student housing units and another 1,000 subsidised rental units
This really needs both sides – the University of Oxford and Legal & General – to make it work.
“Oxford is a very well-known city, but behind that there are some very significant social and economic issues, particularly around affordability of housing, not least for the university staff and the students that come out of the university, but also for the ecosystem of people in the city that support the university in all of its spin-off businesses,” says Jukes. A recent report, ‘Place Matters: Innovation and Growth in the UK’, commissioned by Bruntwood SciTech (a joint venture between Bruntwood and Legal & General), highlighted the importance of investing in housing, amenities and infrastructure when creating science and innovation ecosystems around the UK. So the Oxford University Development will see new homes built for university staff and postgraduates at three sites – Court Place Gardens, Wellington Square and Ewert House – ensuring the city is both an affordable and appealing place to live. “Universities now have a retention score applied to them: do their graduates stay in the local area? Places like Manchester score very well because they’re more affordable, but Oxford doesn’t because there’s just not the supply of residential housing,” explains Jukes. “This joint venture was created to address exactly problems like this, and to put a solution forward.”
The Life and Mind Building is the first step in the partnership’s seven-point development plan. Following that, in addition to multiple housing sites, developments will include a life sciences park and the Swindon Bookstore, which will become the overspill facility for the Bodleian Library. “This really needs both sides – the University of Oxford and Legal & General – to make it work,” explains Jukes. “We really believe in the power of partnerships as a way of accelerating the capabilities, skills and experience of each partner.”