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Why More Universities Are Partnering with Businesses on Big Projects

Education February 17, 2020

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a five-part blog series sponsored by Bose Professional.

In our first AV Trends and Insights blog post, we talked about the higher education marketplace and how it uses the latest in audio visual innovation to enhance the effectiveness of active learning both online and in the classroom. You can view that post here.

In this post, we look at public-private partnerships and the positive impact they can have when teaming up with a college or university.


A public-private partnership, or P3, is a long-term agreement tasked with designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining a public facility. P3 has become common at many colleges and universities – enabling them to accomplish projects that would otherwise not be possible due to lack of funding. 

For example, the University of California, Merced, 2020 campus expansion is one of the most ambitious uses of the P3 model. The $1.2 billion project includes nearly two million square feet of new facilities – a  mix of uses features academic learning, administration, research, residential and utilities, and more. The agreement includes a 50/50 split among partners for any future refinancing gains, as well as a 50/50 split regarding potential cost-saving measures introduced by the developer.

Setting Up A Higher Ed P3

A public-private partnership structure often includes an availability payment structure. For example, a college or university identifies a partner in the private sector to design, build, operate and maintain an asset for a set period of time. The higher ed institution pays a predetermined amount to the private sector partner each year to cover costs – operating costs or interest on the loan, for example. The P3 is structured in a way that allows payments to decrease if performance measures aren’t met – which incentivizes the partner to keep the facility running efficiently.

Another P3 structure can be likened to that of a toll road. In this model, the private company gets all or part of  its investment in the project back via user fees – student fees that are charged as part of tuition, for example.

Source: Education Dive

The Benefits of a P3 Agreement

City governments, public entities and for-profit corporations share in a variety of valuable benefits when partnering with colleges and universities on campus projects. Some of the partnerships that come into existence are driven by how instructional delivery is done. For example, a health-care provider working with AVI Systems partnered with a university to provide continuing ed and certification for their nurses using advanced technology delivery methods.

The same is happening with spatial planning – especially at larger venues like football stadiums and large conference or meeting spaces. Instead of a university raising money to build and operate a multi-purpose facility, the school partners with local government or a large corporation, or both, to fund the project. The university can then use the facility for its on-campus events, but private entities that financed the project also get rights for their own activities – many of which are open to the community.

The advantage to the university is simple. Instead of creating a new capital asset, it gets funded, in part, by partners, instead of using philanthropic funds to fully fund the building.

Of course, when a college or university engages in a public-private partnership to create or augment a campus learning center of other venue, design implications become a key component.

Consider technology: there are hard core capital expenditures like media, lighting, scoreboards, and sound systems; and there are agile technologies like suites, media, digital signage and wayfinding, all designed to create a unified learning or user experience.

It’s important to make the technology lightweight, adaptable and software-based when possible so it’s easily updated as the tech continues to evolve.

Key Considerations Before Any Project

Whenever we engage with a new project, our first step is to understand what the human experience should look like. This includes the atmosphere of the venue as well as the emotion in the heart of the student or individual who will use the venue. With this information in hand, we can create the design track for the project. Only then do we start examining the equipment specs and the engineering track.

Now that we better understand the positive impacts public-private partnerships can have on higher ed projects, we’ll present a real-world example in which AVI Systems focused on the human experience – and how AV technology can enhance that experience. Join us for part three of this blog series.

AVI Systems and Bose Professional produced a 3-part video series covering higher education trends, including the rise of public-private partnerships in part 2. Watch the video here.


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