Hefce shuffles library cards

Senate House Library loses out in revamp of research library funding. Zoe Corbyn reports

April 3, 2008

Five of the UK's seven research libraries that receive special funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England are to be designated "national research libraries" and to have their support merged into a single stream.

But the University of London's Senate House Library will not be among them - it will have its stipend of £1.1 million a year phased out.

Hefce's decision was informed by an external review of research library funding carried out by Sir Ivor Crewe, former vice-chancellor of the University of Essex. The review recommended an overhaul of how Hefce funds the libraries it judges worthy of central support. Current arrangements "do not meet the criteria of coherence, equity and transparency", the review said.

As recommended, five libraries - Cambridge University Library, the British Library of Political and Economic Science (London School of Economics), the Bodleian Library (University of Oxford), the School of Oriental and African Studies library and the John Rylands University Library (University of Manchester) - will be designated national research libraries and will be funded from a central pot.

Funding for the library at the University of London's School of Advanced Study will also continue, but under a separate stream.

The £1.1 million that the University of London receives from Hefce each year for Senate House Library will be phased out over two years from August. The review said the library "struggles to provide first-class services and facilities to the national research community".

The move will reduce the library's income by nearly a third. David Pearson, the University of London's director of research library services, said: "We have to accept that Hefce has made these judgments, and we have to move on and look forward."

The university has commissioned an external review of the future of the library, which is due to report in December.

Mr Pearson said: "It has got to look at all the options (including whether the library should remain open) ... The colleges that make up the University of London have to collectively decide what they value in Senate House Library and what they will support and pay for."

The Crewe review also deemed University College London's library unsuitable as a national research library.

Hefce's Paul Hubbard said the decision to stop funding Senate House Library would not leave London short of national research libraries, pointing to the LSE, the School of Advanced Studies and the British Library.

Hefce plans to transfer £400,000 a year of the Senate House Library cash to the School of Advanced Study; the rest will go to the John Rylands University Library, which was deemed to be underfunded.

Support for the other national research libraries will continue at the same level until 2010 even though the review found their current total funding of £7 million a year to be £8.3 million short. Hefce is to undertake more work to inform its long-term funding policy.

zoe.corbyn@tsleducation.com.

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