Stationery orders: printers out and paper cut

January 13, 2011

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but that is not much use if it is kept under lock and key by university managers seeking to save cash by restricting stationery use.

To the frustration of many staff, several universities are reported to be taking steps to curb the amount they spend on office basics in a bid to cut costs.

Many have shared their tales of stationery woe on Twitter, with reports of managers abolishing "open access" to paper for photocopiers and printers because of "abuse".

One academic at Manchester Metropolitan University expressed fears that the institution was going further still: "Our printers are going. We are moving to shared printers - presumably one per campus."

The loss of office supplies is not limited to English universities, which are facing public funding cuts of 40 per cent. Last summer, for example, it was reported that the University of Alberta in Canada had cut phone lines to some departments in response to a 5 per cent budget cut. The move affected more than 100 staff, including 60 academics.

While some measures, such as the loss of biscuits at staff meetings (lamented on Twitter by academics at Teesside and Bangor universities), may not have a serious impact, some universities have been accused of going too far.

Last month, the University and College Union branch at the University of Leeds blogged about a psychology test that had to be postponed because of a lack of paper.

It claimed that a "financial decision to reduce paper costs" was responsible for the shortage. The university refuted this, however, insisting that the "temporary shortage of paper on the day (was) due to an administrative oversight".

The union has also claimed that support staff at Leeds have been forced to buy paper from the students' union in order to carry out their everyday work.

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