Memorandum from the Higher Education Funding
Council for England (BL03)
HEFCE allocation of funds
1. The Higher Education Funding Council
for England (HEFCE) was established by statute in 1992. It is
responsible for distributing grant provided by the Secretary of
State in support of teaching, research and related activities
in higher education in England.
2. In 2002-03 the Council will distribute
£5.08 billion of grant. The great majority of this is allocated
to higher education institutions (HEIs) though we also fund some
HE provision in colleges of further education. £4.2 billion
is allocated as non-hypothecated block grants, calculated using
national formulae, to support teaching and research activities
broadly defined. The remainder is allocated as special grant for
more closely specified purposes, including capital grants. Institutions
generally prefer to receive the money as block grant, and we introduce
targeted special grants only where there are very strong reasons
to do so.
3. Figures returned by HEIs to the Higher
Education Statistics Agency indicate that in 1999-2000 HEIs in
England spent some £385 million on central libraries and
information services. This includes library staff costs and purchases
of publications (the latter being about a third of the total);
but it also includes the costs of certain information services
not provided through the library, and excludes buildings-related
costs. It is 3.8 per cent of the institutions= total spending
from all funding sources.
The HE library landscape
4. All HEIs are engaged in teaching; and
for virtually all of them teaching at undergraduate level is a
major element in their mission. All HEIs maintain library and
other learning support facilities appropriate to their academic
portfolio and the needs of their students, funded through general
institutional income (including HEFCE grant and tuition fees).
5. HEIs engage in research activity of varying
kinds, and to varying degrees, in accordance with their individual
mission and the availability of funding. The pattern of provision
of libraries and other information resources in support of research
is consequently more diverse than for teaching and learning. The
amount of specialist research relevant material to be found in
the library of a particular HEI will reflect the institution's
history and its current research strengths. Older institutions
with a long history of research activity will tend to have built
up larger and more diverse research collections than those which
were established more recently or where research represents a
smaller part of their overall academic activity.
6. Most researchers have always relied to
some extent on sourcing research information, including publications,
from outside their home institution. The contribution of resource
sharing schemesinterlibrary loan and the Document Supply
Centre of the British Libraryis crucial in this context,
as are the comprehensive collections held by the British Library
and the "copyright" libraries of Oxford and Cambridge,
and a number of specialised collections held elsewhere. Researchers
increasingly depend upon the internet for rapid access to recently
published material especially in scientific and technical disciplines.
7. The Council has supported the development
of online access to information resources through the activities
of the funding bodies' Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).
The JISC has since its inception ensured that the provision of
IT infrastructure for HEboth the hardware and physical
connections, and the software and systems required to make these
workhas kept pace with the needs of HE for both teaching
and research. This work is currently carried forward partly under
the Distributed National Electronic Resource programme, focussing
on the development of an integrated electronic environment within
which access to a wide range of research and teaching resources
will be possible. The JISC has also sponsored and contributed
to a number of initiatives to develop and support electronic content,
including through the electronic libraries initiative (e-Lib)
and more recently the Resource Discovery Network subject hubs.
It works closely with other public agencies with an interest in
electronic information resources, with the aim of avoiding duplication
of effort and agreeing common technical standards.
8. The Council does not consider that library
and information resources for teaching and learning are under
such pressure that its further intervention would be justified.
Like other parts of the general academic infrastructure, libraries
have come under sustained pressure during a period of increasing
student numbers and declining real resources. New arrangements
have had to be made to meet this challenge, including for example
the provision of "short loan" collections of basic material
in heavy demand and the expansion of provision for internet access.
We are aware too that many HEIs have been unable to increase library
acquisition budgets in line with a rate of increase in prices
of books and journals that is often above general inflation and
is indirectly exacerbated by the high costs of subscriptions to
online research journals. On the other hand, library budgets remain
a comparatively small element within overall institutional spending;
and the increasing availability of teaching support materials
in electronic form, together with changes in the way in which
students prefer to access information, seems likely to ease the
pressure on hard copy materials within the foreseeable future.
9. We are however less optimistic about
library and information resources for research. The Council believes
these are an essential part of the research infrastructure underpinning
the UK's international excellence in research and the developing
knowledge economy, and must be provided to the high standard that
this implies. HE libraries support the research activities of
academic staffincluding users from other HEIsand
are used by researchers from outside HE. They also meet the needs
of all academic staff in keeping up to date with developments
in their own discipline. The achievements of the UK HE sector
in research have until now been underpinned by library resources
of high quality. This has however required a concerted effort
by the country's research libraries, underpinned for the last
10 years by a succession of special initiatives funded by the
HEFCE and others to help ensure that the aggregate national provision
keeps pace with researchers' needs. (These initiatives are summarised
10. The establishment of the Research Support
Libraries Group (RSLG) reflects the Council's view that we cannot
be confident that resources will continue to be adequate without
further targeted action. There will be a particular challenge
in maintaining collections of "hard copy" material at
their present level while also coping with the increasing volume
of material published in electronic form. Although electronic
publication is already well established, and is becoming the norm
for a few disciplines, there is as yet little sign of any corresponding
decline in print publication. We would expect the hybrid landscape
of mixed printed and electronic material to be the pattern in
most disciplines for a decade at least.
Targeted support for library provision
11. The following paragraphs describe briefly
a number of special initiatives to support HE library provision
in which the Council is, or has recently been, engaged.
12. The report in 1993 of the Joint Funding
Councils' Libraries Review Group (the "Follett Report")
was concerned with the impact on HE libraries of the twin pressures
of rising student numbers and IT. This led to a number of special
initiatives to support HE libraries including the JISC e-Lib programme
to develop the electronic information environment; the first national
licensing scheme for electronic journals; and capital grants to
a number of HEIs to expand their library buildings with particular
emphasis on accommodating more readers. Some £45 million
of grant was made available from 1995 under the last heading.
13. More recently, the Council has paid
special grant to institutions for capital and infrastructure purpose
under our strategy for improving poor estates and the research-focussed
Joint Infrastructure Fund (jointly with the Research Councils
and Wellcome Trust) and the Science Research Infrastructure Fund.
These programmes had a rather broader focus than libraries, but
all have included significant projects to improve and update library
provision in individual HEIs. For example, in the four years from
1998-99 to 2001-02, the Council allocated £284 million to
"poor estates" projects. Some £40 million of this
was for primarily library-related projects including learning
"resources centres", with individual grants of up to
14. The Council currently pays special grant
in support of a number of individual libraries of exceptional
research significance; and through a UK wide scheme to support
collaborative provision of research libraries more broadly. In
the current year we are paying special grants of £1.3 million
each to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in recognition
of the additional costs which they incur in maintaining "copyright"
libraries to the benefit of researchers across HE. We pay a special
library grant of £0.8 million to the School of Oriental and
Academic Studies in support of its unique provision in area studies.
The central libraries of the University of London are supported
through a special grant paid to the University in support of a
range of activities of national significance.
15. The UK wide Research Support Libraries
Programme (RSLP) is funded by the four higher education funding
bodies. It has distributed grants of almost £30 million over
four years and comes to an end in the summer of 2002. The Programme
was designed specifically to support and improve library provision
supporting research in HE, with a strong focus on promoting collaboration
between the providers. The activities which the Programme has
funded are broken down into three strands: collaborative collection
management demonstrator projects (in any subject area); projects
that provide support for improving access to humanities and social
science research collections; and an "access" grant
to HEIs with major research holdings libraries, reflecting the
costs that these incur in providing facilities for researchers
not from the "home" institution. A total of £12.2
million has been awarded to projects under the first two strands,
and £5 million per year is distributed under the access strand.
The Council has agreed to continue the latter payments in 2002-03
pending the outcome of RSLG.
British Library Collaboration
16. In September 1999 the British Library
and the HEFCE set up a high level joint task force to identify
areas for future collaboration between the British Library and
Higher Education (HE). Building on a history of earlier collaborative
discussion, the Task Force sought to identify specific initiatives
for mutual benefit, in line with the British Library's increasing
strategic emphasis on collaboration to deliver its objectives.
It sponsored a number of joint studies including work on the barriers
to deeper sharing of research resources and a feasibility study
for a unified national electronic catalogue of library holdings.
17. The British Library and the HEFCE have
recently signed a statement of strategic alliance as a basis for
future collaboration in both strategic and operational domains.
Research Support Libraries Group
18. The four UK higher education funding
bodies, the British Library, the National Library of Scotland
and the National Library of Wales have established the Research
Support Libraries Group (RSLG) under the chairmanship of Sir Brian
Follett. This new strategic advisory group will advise on the
development of a national strategy to ensure that UK researchers
in all disciplines have access to world class information resources
over the next decade. We expect to receive the Group's report
during October 2002.
Higher Education Funding Council for England