95. Restrictions on academic library funding have
greatly exacerbated problems with the provision of scientific
publications. Library funding has declined as a proportion of
total university budgets. John Cox, an independent publishing
consultant, told us that, in the 1970s, library expenditure accounted
for 4% of total university spend compared to 3% currently. These
figures are in stark contrast to the 3% year on year increase
in the output of scientific articles.
More recently, "the libraries' share of total UK university
] declined from 3.1% in 1998-99 to 2.8% in 2001-02
in the old [pre-1992] universities, and from 3.8% to 3.6% in the
new [post-1992] universities".
Not only has library funding declined as a proportion of overall
institutional spend, it has not kept pace with either research
output or journal prices. The Chartered Institute of Library and
Information Professionals (CILIP) told us that, whilst between
1996-07 and 2000-01 the average journal price increased by 41%,
over the same period the information resource budget of UK university
libraries decreased by 29% in real terms.
Journal prices are increasing by rates of up to 10.6% per year.
The downward trend in academic library funding, both in real terms
and within institutions, is of serious concern.
96. The mechanisms used to allocate library funding
make it difficult to verify the accuracy of these statistics.
Higher education institutions receive funds from a range of sources,
both public and private. For many of these institutions, the block
grant from HEFCE, provided under the terms of the Dual Support
System, is a significant element, but the proportions vary within
the broad range of 10-60%. Libraries are funded from the university's
general funds, of which HEFCE's contribution from the block grant
is one element. HEFCE does not ring fence funds for library provision.
The Follett Report published in 1993 noted that "the principle
which therefore underlies the allocation of almost all funding
related to the provision of research libraries in HE [higher education]
is that it is for the individual institutions to decide how to
allocate resources to meet these needs, from within the general
funds available to them". The report concluded that this
flexibility was necessary because it enabled institutions "to
distribute funding internally as they think best and helps to
ensure responsiveness to local needs".
Whilst we are concerned that the library's share of the overall
university budget is in decline, we recognise that UK higher education
institutions are currently under severe financial pressure on
all sides. The decline in library funding may well reflect added
financial pressures elsewhere in the university's budget. Universities
need to have the freedom to prioritise to meet the various demands
placed upon them. We agree that universities should be able
to allocate their budgets locally in response to the needs of
their teaching and research communities.
97. We asked HEFCE what proportion of the block grant
was spent on library provision. Rama Thirunamachandran told us
that "ultimately HEFCE funds are less than half of what the
totality of the university sector's general income is; so it is
difficult to specify exactly how much of HEFCE's money might be
going to libraries, but UK university libraries spend about £400
We found this vagueness difficult to accept. HEFCE is the public
body responsible for distributing funds to higher and further
education institutions in support of research and teaching needs.
In order to be able to allocate its funds, HEFCE has to be aware
of the nature and extent of these needs, as well as the extent
to which they are currently being met. The library is an invaluable
component of an institution's teaching and research provision:
the cost of the services that it provides form part of the full
economic costs of research. At the very least, HEFCE should make
itself aware of the financial pressures facing academic libraries
when it calculates the funding to be allocated through the block
grant. It cannot do this unless it takes an active interest in
library budgets. HEFCE funds a recently-formed think tank, the
Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI). HEPI states that one
of its roles is "to inform policy makers (notably civil servants
and politicians, journalists and academic decision makers) and
the wider public about the issues, relevant experience and research".
We believe that HEPI would be well placed to conduct research
into current library funding and future funding needs. It is
unacceptable that HEFCE has shown so little interest in library
budgets. We recommend that it commission a study from HEPI to
ascertain both current library funding levels and library funding
needs. The results of this study could be used to inform the allocation
of the block grant.
98. Although it would not be appropriate for HEFCE
to ring fence funding within the block grant, it does have a role
in offering guidance to universities about how the money might
be spent. In the revised version of its Strategic Plan, HEFCE
states that "to ensure that our funding is put to good use,
we will identify opportunities arising from the funding relationship
to offer advice and guidance to the sector, often through the
sharing of good practice from within the sector itself".
The severe pressures faced by academic libraries present an opportunity
for HEFCE to put this into practice. HEFCE has a valuable role
to play in advising universities on library funding requirements.
We recommend that HEFCE establish a code of good practice for
library funding that universities can draw upon when allocating
99. Periodicals account for 25% of the average library
acquisitions budget, or a total of 10% of the average total academic
library budget. Increases in research output and journal prices
put pressure on the area of the budget dedicated to STM serials.
All of the libraries who submitted evidence told us that they
had to reduce the number of journal subscriptions they took each
year. The British Library told us that, of their subscriptions,
"some 7,000 [STM journal] titles were cancelled in 1998/99
and 1,300 humanities and social science titles were cancelled
in 1996-98. The
British Library receives free copies of all UK-based journals
under legal deposit legislation, thus these figures relate to
subscriptions to journals published abroad. Other areas of the
acquisitions budget are also under pressure: spending on books
in particular is down. Table 2 below illustrates this trend:Table