Details of the revamped four-year framework structure were revealed as the Government formerly started the prequalification race today.
The decision to reduce the number of firms this time round will make competition fierce against a backdrop of declining public building works.
But for successful contractors the prize will be bigger than expected with Education Funding Agency chiefs upping the expected spend from an initial estimate of £3bn to £4bn.
As before the country will be divided into north and south regions, but under the new deal the agency aims to speed up the design engagement process.
It said contractors would provide design and construction services, which would require them working to get on board architects, mechanical and electrical designers and installers earlier in the process.
The new framework will replace the existing version when it expires in November this year.
EFA procurement timetable
PQQ deadline: 29 May 2013
ITT: 17 July 2013
EFA expects to shortlist 13 firms for the nine places and companies will need to demonstrate they turnover more than £50m to be eligible.
Prequalification questionnaires are available from the e-tendering portal