The higher education sector is vibrant & dynamic, fast-moving, challenging the status quo, looking for and meeting opportunities head on.
We understand the individuality of schools, colleges and universities. As for students, one size does not fit all.
Why choose us?
We have advised clients in the higher education sector for many years, and have a wealth of experience across a broad range of practice areas. We continue to support universities through the challenges they face, as they invest in their future whilst navigating the pressures of changing revenue streams, student expectations and increasing competition both nationally and internationally.
Our specialists know that within the higher education sector business as usual doesn't exist. With delivering education at its core, many institutions are looking to capitalise on their talent, innovation and connections to provide funding opportunities. Collaboration with business offers resource and open markets, in the UK and elsewhere, to create stand-out offerings for ever more discerning students.
Whether it’s a specific question, a large-scale project or a new international venture, our lawyers work with you as one team to help you achieve success. Our focus is on delivering what you need in order to thrive. We invest in your values and take a collaborative approach to understand your ambitions and the specific goals you are working towards. Political change, mental health awareness, the climate emergency and the impact of events such as Brexit and Covid-19 continue to affect HEIs. We are here to ensure these challenges do not stop our HE clients remaining world-class.
We have a dedicated Higher Education Steering Group of colleagues with genuine expertise and interest in this area who meet regularly to share experiences and knowledge. This, together with the insight we have into this sector from our strong client relationships, ensures we have an up to date understanding of the key opportunities, challenges and themes affecting our HE clients.
Read more about what we can do:
We understand the need for our clients in the higher education sector to develop their commercial relationships with third parties whilst still maintaining their main role as an education provider. We understand the difficulties you face in order to achieve this balance and we ensure that this is reflected in our work and advice. Our market-leading public procurement team provides practical, cutting-edge solutions, always with a focus on achieving the best commercial outcome.
Recent activity in the sector includes:
- Advising a University on a number of commercial contracts as a result of its proposed surrender of the lease of one of its properties.
- Creating a template sponsorship agreement for a University to use in order to obtain financial sponsorship from third parties.
- Advising a University on a data sharing arrangement with the University's student union in connection with a volunteer scheme being ran for students.
- Advising a University on the commercial contracts required for its collaboration with another University in connection to providing support to PhD students.
- Advising a University on its contract with a third party provider in connection with the development of new sports courses for international students.
Our construction team (both contentious and non-contentious) provides a full legal service to our University clients.
Our non-contentious team works with our university clients to provide fully tailored suites of construction precedents that can be utilised on all manner of projects. Such precedents include: amendments to standard form building contracts (e.g. the JCT and NEC suites) as well as bespoke building contracts; professional team appointments; framework agreements; collateral warranties; bonds; parent company guarantees; letters of intent; and letters of reliance. We advise our university clients pre-tender (often in conjunction with our procurement team), through the actual tender process to entering into contract, through the lifespan of the project to practical completion, and beyond. We assist in negotiating and finalising the building contracts and professional team appointments, delivering any required collateral warranties to third parties and ensuring any necessary security documents are correctly completed and placed.
The AG Managing Risk Service is a key part of our proactive, strategic advice to clients during the construction phase of their projects, avoiding disputes and saving time and costs. Our dedicated construction dispute resolution lawyers regularly advise our university clients and their project teams, as part of our whole life project construction offering when issues arise (for example, delay/extension of time and loss and expense entitlement, practical completion/defects and payment/pay less notices) giving real time advice such that they can be managed properly and in timely manner.
We regularly assist our clients in the resolution of latent defects in their property portfolios; from compliance with Building Regulations / cladding and fire safety issues through to issues of defective design and workmanship, from acoustic defects to the effect of wind on the microclimate around tall buildings. Our defects notification process provides clients and their estates teams with a clear and cost effective means of engaging with contractors (and construction professionals) such that latent defects are investigated and made good. Our aim throughout is to place our clients in the strongest position to enable them to resolve the issues at hand without the need for formal dispute resolution proceedings, whether that be adjudication, litigation or arbitration.
Our combined construction team provides training to our university clients and their project managers (both internal and external) in respect of the precedents we provide, how to use them correctly, and how to avoid risk. We work closely with our clients to tailor training to their specific needs.
We also work very closely with other teams – for example our property colleagues, especially when preparing/negotiating e.g. Agreements for Lease, Development Agreements and Joint Venture Agreements for and on behalf of our university clients – and pride ourselves in our ability to provide an efficient and seamless full property and construction service. Our 'one stop shop' approach, means we can provide legal advice (under one roof) from inception, planning, procurement, development to sale/lease/utilisation of the end product.
Some examples of our work with higher education institutions are:
- Advising on the £80 million Downing development of the Centre for Creative Arts at Leeds Beckett University's City Centre Campus;
- Advising on the early use of the site by a university (given part of the site was required on Open Days prior to practical completion of the entire works);
- Advising University of York on its Safe Autonomy Building, New Engineering Centre, Management School and Central Hall.
- Advising on early contractor engagement, whilst finalising complex planning issues in order to ensure a university's project proceeded in accordance with the planned programme;
- Working with Lancaster University from tender through to completion of the redevelopment of the £41 million Health Innovation Campus;Supporting external project managers in administering building contracts, and in assessing claims for more time etc.;
- Acting in relation to the development of the Carnegie Teaching and Research Facility (CTAR) at Leeds Beckett University's Headingley Campus;
- Drafting framework appointments for a University's panel consultants;
- Advising on a Modular Build at Leeds Beckett University's Headingley Campus, temporarily re-housing staff during development work.
- Data Protection
Our team's experience in the higher education sector includes:
- Advising frequently on common HE employment themes including issues on fixed term contracts, redundancy and maternity in research environments, and performance management.
- Helping HE employers with suitable communications to staff on the run up to, and during, industrial action.
- Advising on how best to navigate challenges around reasonable adjustments from staff with mental health issues wishing to continue home working.
- Advising on numerous exit negotiations and settlement agreements for academic and non-academic staff.
- Guiding HE clients in relation to TUPE issues in the sector arising from switching of funding streams/grants between different Universities.
- Advising a Russell Group university on changes to terms and conditions in a heavily unionised environment.
- Defending both Russell Group and post 92 employers in a range of Tribunal claims brought by academic members of staff, up to and including at full hearings.
- Successfully managing a complex tribunal case brought by a Professor against his Russell Group employer. In that case, securing Deposit Orders against the academic at key stages in the litigation before the University was successful on all fronts at a final hearing.
- Successfully defending a claim brought by an academic for discrimination on the grounds of philosophical belief, linked to his beliefs about Brexit.
The Finance team regularly advises in relation to lending transactions to borrowers within the further and the higher education sector, bond issues by Higher Education Institutions and funding the development of student accommodation. We therefore fully understand the nuances of such transactions and are able to progress them quickly and efficiently to completion.
Recent activity includes:
- Advising the University of Greenwich on a consent solicitation exercise in respect of its £30m 6.36% Secured Bonds due 2028.
- Advising NatWest in relation to facilities made available to the University of Sheffield.
- Advising Lloyds Banking Group in relation to a number of separate facilities made available to different Higher Education Colleges.
- Advising a UK clearing bank in relation to a £20m working capital facility and a £25m CLBILS facility in each case made available to an English University.
- Advising a UK clearing bank in relation to a £35m revolving credit facility made available to a Russell Group University.
- Advising a UK clearing bank in relation to a £50m facility made available to a University in London.
- Advising a UK clearing bank in relation to a £25m facility made available to a Scottish University.
- Governance & Compliance
- Health & Safety
- Innovation & Legal Technology
Innovation is business as usual for us. Our Innovation and Legal Technology (ILT) team was formed in 2015; it blends technology and legal expertise and is fully integrated into our business. We develop, test, invest in and embrace new technology on a continuous basis in order to enable the smart delivery of legal services and the creation of clever solutions to clients, both faster and more cost-effectively. Our appetite to learn sees us partnering with technology providers, universities and law schools, collaborating with others and organising initiatives to stimulate creative ideas with the objective of delivering solutions and services that benefit our clients.
We have worked with universities previously as follows:
- Delivering guest lectures and panel talks on Legal Technology at a variety of universities, including University of Manchester, University of Newcastle, University of Nottingham, University of Sheffield, University of Oxford, University of Liverpool and BPP.
- Collaborating with University of Manchester in the Manchester Law & Tech Initiative – an industry-academia consortium bringing together legal services firms with academics from across the disciplines of Law, Business and Computer Science, to develop research and teaching focused on innovation and the application of new technologies in the legal services sector. To date, this partnership has included:
- Intellectual Property
An AG team, led by Lowri Llwyd, advised and supported Cognita Schools, one of the world's leading private schools groups, in relation to its recent acquisition of one of the oldest schools in Dubai - Horizon English School. Commenting on the transaction, Lowri said: "We are delighted to have advised Cognita on this significant transaction, its first acquisition in the region. Horizon English School is regarded as an excellent school with a rating of "Outstanding" from the KHDA and we were pleased to have helped Cognita to add this to its growing portfolio in the region."
AG also recently advised Cognita on its acquisition of Ranches Primary School and Ranches Nursery in Dubai from A2 Investments Limited. Commenting on the transaction, Lowri Llwyd, who lead the AG team, said: "This transaction, which follows Cognita's acquisition of Horizon English School and the recent opening of The Royal Grammar School Guilford Dubai, demonstrates Cognita's growing presence as – and commitment to being – a major education provider in the region. We are delighted to be able to support Cognita with their continued investment into the region".
The Planning and Infrastructure Consenting team advises clients in the higher education sector on all aspects of planning, highways and compulsory purchase law. The team's work in this sector includes reviewing and de-risking planning applications, negotiating section 106 agreements, advising in relation to the Community Infrastructure Levy, managing public inquiries whether following a planning appeal, call-in or to secure confirmation of a compulsory purchase order and defending or bringing judicial review proceedings or statutory challenges.
The clients that we have assisted include:
- Leeds Beckett University in relation to its development of a c.£80 million new Creative Arts Tower in Leeds City Centre, where the team reviewed and negotiated the planning conditions and associated section 106 obligations underpinning the delivery of the scheme.
- Lancaster University in relation to the development of a new Innovation Campus, which involved the negotiation and completion of a range of infrastructure agreements with the relevant drainage undertaker, highways authority and third party landowners.
- University of Brighton on all planning and infrastructure aspects of its Preston Barracks development.
- UPP Ltd in its promoting of new student halls of residence for the University of London, University of Reading, University of Exeter and Swansea University – including negotiating section 106 agreements on behalf of UPP's partnering universities, securing planning permission and promoting developments at appeal.
- Real Estate
We understand that schools, colleges and higher education institutions need to balance the commercial opportunities that are available to them whilst creating the very best built environment for students to flourish. To enable that, we have advised clients in this sector as both landlord and tenant on property transactions involving various occupiers, plus other less common (property centric) agreements. Ultimately, we feel we understand what matters to you – to be a place where students can learn through top class facilities, whilst feeling a sense of belonging. Commercial lettings are there to facilitate that goal – not to distract from it.
Recent activity includes:
- Buying and selling land for development (including conference centres, residential developments, recreational facilities etc.);
- Entering into development agreements and supplemental utilities and highways agreements for development of a new research campus;
- Leases to Cornerstone Telecommunications securing 4G (making the rather dense (legislative) changes around the telecoms code understandable, via clear / succinct summary notes);
- Dealings with Government research bodies in the grant of and subsequent dealings with leases;
- Various less conventional agreements, including: a physiotherapist's licence to occupy; a fishing platform licence; grazing licences; farm business tenancies; events licences and agreements for Amazon Click and Collect Lockers (plus advertising).
- Student Accommodation
Get in touch to discuss any business issues you are facing and discover a world of opportunities.