This paper will report on a study of the role that good design plays in promoting organisational efficiency and effectiveness in higher education in England. The study assessed the added value brought by good design to selected universities which had recently engaged in programmes of new construction and of building renovation. These programmes affected the performance of the universities concerned and lessons which can be drawn are of interest to designers and to those funding investment in the institutions where knowledge is created and transmitted. The research investigated the activities of design, the organisation of design processes and the management of spaces dedicated to advanced levels of teaching and learning, to research and to institutional administration. The methodology of the case studies which were undertaken included the collection of secondary data on student and staff characteristics, on the academic profile of the universities concerned, on flows of public and private finance and on indicators of performance such as student and staff retention and staff publications records. Primary data collection included a questionnaire survey, structured discussions with groups representing key stakeholders, structured interviews with personnel involved in operating or using the facilities concerned, and direct observations of the buildings and of their patterns of use. The analysis of this information used specialist software, selected because of its ability to combine qualitative and quantitative data. The results highlighted both the factors which were common across all case studies and factors which were specific to each institution and location. The sample of building projects aimed to cover: campus and inner city locations; accommodation for teaching, research and academic staff; humanities or social science based education, science and engineering departments and schools with a basis in studio space; large and small facilities. Specific to the English situation was a concern to portray the division between the building heritage and design policies of “Oxbridge”, the “redbrick” universities, institutes of technology and various types of “new University.” Design criteria employed included: functionality, sense of place, efficiency in use, community image, sustainability and flexibility, aesthetic qualities. A Design Quality Indicator System previously in use was critically reviewed and a more generic method of measuring the impact of perceptions of design quality on institutional performance was proposed.