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Univ North: The next stage

Univ NorthAfter nearly two years of predominantly behind-the-scenes work on the Univ North development, the College is now delighted to announce significant steps that mark the transition from pre-project to project.

“These are exciting times. On 31 January, we issued invitations to a long-list of potential construction contractors to formally indicate their willingness for pre-qualification. This is a watershed moment for Univ North.” Andrew Grant, Finance Bursar, informed the Univ North Working Party.

Following the market confirmation, six construction contractors have begun pre-qualification. The “project” phase, which will now run all the way through to building occupation, has begun.

Contractors were long-listed on the evidence of their experience in similar, relevant projects. This successful track record has been a vital part of the selection process, with several of the potential companies having completed projects in and around Oxford, many for other colleges. The process of selective tendering is a part of the Governing Body-approved procurement strategy and is bespoke to the project.

Pre-qualification requires the completion of a tailored Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. The contractor responses will be evaluated competitively for due diligence and ranked so that the College may make an informed choice. The final shortlist will comprise just three companies.

Univ North Q&ATerraceAs we roll forward through 2022, the tender documents are scheduled to be issued in Trinity Term, and the shortlisted contractors will have several months to process and cost up their bids to do the work. In parallel, the team will also prepare a demolitions contract, which is currently planned to start in September 2022. This is timed so that there is no risk of disturbing the bird nesting season in the spring of 2023. Univ remains committed to the sustainability of the site, particularly in the matter of biodiversity, both through site preparation as well as during construction. You can read about this commitment in more detail here.

The invited tenderers on the final shortlist will be required to submit their returns in Michaelmas 2022. Final contractor selection will enable exclusive discussions and negotiations in order to shape the construction contract. Contract let is expected in Hilary Term 2023, subject to Governing Body approval.

In the lead-up to this important moment in the delivery of Univ North, the team’s activity has been correctly internally-focused. Work in 2021 was focused on preparing to meet the conditions to the planning consent, enhancing the College’s internal financial control processes and other pre-project activities so critical for positioning the project for success. Inevitably, this was made doubly challenging by the pandemic.

Over the 16 months since securing planning consent, we have:

  • activated UnivDevCo Ltd., the College’s captive design and build company
  • assured and, indeed, re-assured the estimated total project costs and the available funds to cover them
  • instituted a revised internal project governance structure and projected how the College will operate the expanded Staverton Annexe site in operation

There has been, quite simply, a lot of critical preparations that were necessary to enable the College to deliver this £50 million capital project in parallel with normal College life. We have had to strike a balance between delivering the College’s purpose for our current students and researchers, and driving the Univ North project forward to enhance the lives of later cohorts. Without these pre-project preparations, the project phase would have been unacceptably disruptive to the regular running of the College. This is possibly why we only do projects of this scale every 300 years!

You can read more about the College’s vision for its complementary community, and our latest developments, on the Univ North microsite.

Published: 11 March 2022

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