What land does your university own?

Or, more to the point, why does Lincoln College Oxford own two farms about three miles from my parents' house?

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

This is data from the Land Registry. It’s not great quality (witness the number of variant spellings for providers) but it does offer us a look at something we don’t often get to see.

[Full screen]

Use the filter at the top to chose a provider (for ease of use this is just a list of all owner entries that contain the word “university”) and the list appears at the bottom. You can click on a district shown on the map to sort.

Shown is every property associated with the entity in question on the Land Registry dataset of UK companies that own property in England and Wales. I’ve not had as much time to work on this as I had hoped (the data was downloaded back in April and is released on a monthly basis) so I thought I’d put this out for now as an “in progress”.

Why might a provider own property?

The usual answer relates to the kind of think you might expect – the campus, or other buildings used in teaching and research, or land that may become part of either in the near future. Some providers own property relating to remote campuses or facilities – a university from the north that has a campus in London, or a specialist facility for agriculture.

Some providers own property for investment purposes, collecting rent while looking eventually to sell at a profit. Others may own property as part of a bequest – they can collect rent on it but not sell it. Central among these groups are the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, many of whom hold property first owned in the early Middle Ages. In 2015 Oxford colleges alone had £1.3bn invested in property in England and Wales, according to the superb “Who Owns England“.

I’ve written to ask (and will update this post when I hear) but my guess is that those farms near my parents’ house in Stockton-on-Tees fall into this category for Lincoln College.

Update: I heard back and this is indeed the case.

Leave a Reply