Some four years ago we carried a story suggesting that Oxford University was to defy the crisis gripping higher education by planning a £1bn spending spree, which would see the biggest building programme in the university’s 800-year history.

At the time it seemed barely credible, given the fact that the UK was in the grip of an economic downturn, universities bracing themselves for big reductions in central government funding, with capital programmes being scrapped the length and breadth of the country.

But now the university has disclosed that its spending will greatly exceed our early forecast: over the next decade it will reach £1.8bn.

Such a level of spending is going to be required to allow Oxford to compete against leading American universities, and you could just as easily add Cambridge University to that list.

While this total includes huge spending on the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, the Bodleian Library, student accommodation and sports facilities, there can be no doubting that much of the proposed expansion of the university’s estate is concerned with enlarging Oxford’s science and research base.

The work, of course, is being carefully and smoothly phased, but that does not mean anyone should not marvel at the scale and cost of two ambitious schemes in particular: the steady transformation of the university Science Area and the new science centre soon to take shape near the Churchill Hospital. Because the science centre will include the Old Road Campus and the recently acquired Park Hospital site, it is easy to underestimate what Oxford is going to end up with.

The Prime Minister reckons that the Big Data Institute, housed in a flagship building on the new campus, will be at the very forefront of revolutionising healthcare. The university has been wise, given what is at stake, to consult long and repeatedly, seemingly taking to heart the recommendations of the independent review headed by Vincent Goodstadt after the Castle Mill flats controversy.

But residents expecting to see buildings greatly reduced in height or the multi-storey car park halved in size will be disappointed. The changes will mean the science centre will be better landscaped, with new access routes for cyclists — and for that we can thank the contribution of local residents.

Yet, somehow Headington has ended up with what will become an internationally famous science and research centre, in a quarter of the city already containing three major hospitals, which have all seen huge expansions.

The new science and research centre will add to congestion and parking difficulties, but Oxford should be justly proud that it can still attract this level of investment, bringing jobs and world- famous researchers and scientists.

But before all the great drug discoveries that surely lie ahead, serious work remains for Oxfordshire County Council, bus companies and the university itself to ensure the pain is kept to a minimum for the near neighbours.