Libraries' book cash halved

November 25, 1994

The years of Conservative government have witnessed a steep decline in university library spending with money spent per student on books and periodicals falling by almost half, according to a Publishing Association survey of academic and professional publishers.

The estimated shortfall in the "old" university sector over the past 14 years is Pounds 42.5 million. It means that libraries are buying fewer than 1.5 books per student each year.

In 1978/79, "old" university libraries in the United Kingdom spent Pounds 205 per student, Pounds 78 on books and Pounds 1 on periodicals. In 1992/93, the total expenditure per student was just Pounds 113, Pounds 44 on books and Pounds 68 on periodicals. The shortfall amounts to Pounds 15.5 million on books and Pounds million on periodicals.

The former polytechnics fared worse, although complete data was only available for 22 institutions. In 1978/79, book spending reached Pounds 63 per student and periodical spending Pounds 70, a total of Pounds 133. Fourteen years on, books spending dropped to Pounds and periodical spending dropped to Pounds 22, a combined total of Pounds 49, little over a third of the previous amount.

All the old universities spent less in total real terms than in the late 1970s, although Aston's book expenditure went up by 17.6 per cent and Manchester's periodical spending rose by 7.8 per cent. The biggest university spender (apart from the London Business School) was Cambridge, with some Pounds 4.05 million, or Pounds 1.14 per student. But this represented a 24.4 per cent drop.

The report said that the downwards trend "looks set to continue" and called for "immediate action" in the shape of "proper funding". Some old universities have suffered especially severe cuts. St David's, Lampeter, which was the highest per student spender on books in 1978/79 (after business schools), has seen the amount fall by 77 per cent.

Top Ten Table Biggest Spenders In UK Per FTE In 1992-1993 (excluding London Business School and Manchester Business School) 1 Cambridge 1.14 2 Oxford 209.39 3 Newcastle 146.62 4 Durham 139.41 5 St Andrews 134.80 6 Dundee 133.07 7 Essex 132.42 8 Kent 1.04 9 London 124.80 10 Bath 121.75

Bottom Ten Table Lowest Spenders (excluding the College of Medicine in Wales) 1 UMIST 56.59 2 St. David's Lampeter 71.32 3 Hull 73.93 4 Queen's, Belfast 81.40 5 Exeter 81.89 6 Salford 82.78 7 Leicester 85.54 8 Strathclyde 86.42 9 Reading 86.65 10 Stirling 87.73.

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