Improving the utilisation of University teaching space

C. Beyrouthy, E.K. Burke, J.D. Landa, Barry McCollum, Paul McMullan, A. Parkes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


There is a perception that teaching space in universities is a rather scarce resource. However, some studies have revealed that in many institutions it is actually chronically under-used. Often, rooms are occupied only half the time, and even when in use they are often only half full. This is usually measured by the “utilisation” which is basically the percentage of available ’seat-hours’ that are employed. In real institutions, this utilisation can often takes values as low as 20-40%. One consequence of such low utilisation is that space managers are under pressure to make a more efficient use of the available teaching space. However, better management is hampered because there does not appear to be a good understanding within space management (near-term planning) of why this happens. Nor, a good basis within space planning (long-term planning) of how best to accommodate the expected low utilisations. This motivates our two main goals: (i) To understand the factors that drive down utilisations, (ii) To set up methods to provide better space planning. Here, we provide quantitative evidence that constraints arising from timetabling and location requirements easily have the potential to explain the low utilisations seen in reality. Furthermore, on considering the decision question “Can this given set of courses all be allocated in the available teaching space?” we find that the answer depends on the associated utilisation in a way that exhibits threshold behaviour: There is a sharp division between regions in which the answer is “almost always yes” and those of “almost always no”. Our work suggests that progress in space management and planning will arise from an integrated approach; combining purely space issues with restrictions representing an aggregated or abstracted version of key constraints such as timetabling or location, and
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-143
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Operational Research Society
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


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