Cambridge University has embarked on a £1bn North West Cambridge project that will involve the development of 3,000 homes, 100,000 square meters of research space and 2,000 additional bedrooms for post-graduate researchers. The university is hopeful that the investment into accommodation will attract prospective students, both UK and international, with affordable, good-quality housing. However, despite investing into housing and research space, the university will not be developing it into a new college, which has come as a surprise to many as some have argued that the college communities are integral to the university's student culture and social attraction. Nick Hillman, who is director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, agrees that expenditure on accommodation is important if the university is to continue attracting students, particularly those coming from abroad. Yet, he also stated that: "elements of the 'Cambridge experience' will be missing from the site. One is the traditional college and another is undergraduates, and [they] do add to the greater good of Cambridge by making it a more vibrant place." Three years ago a working group investigated into the decision and concluded that North West Cambridge "must have a college at its heart" warning that it may become just a "dormitory suburb." One explanation for the university's decision could be lack of funding as developing a new college would call for a significant endowment. However, Cambridge received a triple-A credit rating to issue a £350 million public bond, which has significantly aided the funding.
There has been a lot of controversy around the project as a housing statement in 2011 allowed faculty, who are paid up to £47,000, to qualify for "affordable" housing, when thousands who earn considerably less and live in the city sit on council waiting lists. Arguments have been proposed that such a large-scale residential development will ease up the local housing market as properties who used to house researchers will now become available. Further to that, Heather Topel, who is deputy project director for North West Cambridge, announces that the new facilities such as sports and community centers will be open for the community.