Libraries' expansion shelved

May 17, 1996

Thirty-four university library improvement schemes estimated to cost Pounds 22.5 million have been scrapped because of the Government's capital funding cuts.

The list of abandoned projects was the subject of a written response to a Parliamentary question put to higher education minister Eric Forth by Labour MP Colin Pickthall. The November Budget severely slashed universities' capital provision, forcing the Higher Education Funding Council for England to drop its earmarked support for the libraries.

The Association for University Teachers said shelves were sitting empty as book buying and journal subscription budgets were cut back. "Study places in university libraries are under severe pressure which discourages students from basic research or reading of texts.

"Developments for index computerisation and reciprocal loan facilities among libraries are being held back as are the building of new wings for prized special collections. Wholesale destruction of the core of university scholarship has been the result of the funding cuts."

Nottingham University had asked the funding council for a quarter of the cost of Pounds 1.3 million worth of library facilities for a new campus. University College London had planned to extend the reading area of its library with computer access and extra shelving for teaching materials for science and social science students.

At UMIST a bid for Pounds 2,000 would have set in motion a Pounds 1 million plan for library facilities for the new school of management, and at York University support for urgent floor repairs costing a total of Pounds 1.1 million would have amounted to Pounds 8,000. Exeter University has had to abort plans to spend Pounds 1.1 million of which Pounds 249,000 was to have come from HEFCE. Other large bids submitted were from Kingston University (Pounds 1 million); London Guildhall (Pounds 1.5 million); Northumbria University (Pounds 3.8 million); and Westminster University (Pounds 1.3 million).

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