Implications for the British Library and the higher education sector following the Lord Browne Review and 2010 CSR
With the Lord Browne review resulting in one of the most important reforms to higher education, alongside cuts to the teaching and research budgets, this coming year will be one of radical change for the higher education sector. Shared services are something that the British Library has been exploring in order to support the higher education sector and perhaps one of the more positive outcomes from this change will be the new focus on increasing collaboration.
The partnership between the British Library and higher education sector in the form of the UK Research Reserve serves to demonstrate the fantastic impact that partnerships can have. Not only has it strengthened the national research collection, it has also enabled libraries to transform space for use as teaching and learning spaces, private study areas, cafes, collaborative working spaces and is a testament to the project’s success. Signiﬁcant savings to higher education estates costs means that crucial funding can be used in other vital areas.
A recent study from Policy Exchange has suggested that shared services could save UK universities as much as 30 per cent on goods and services but only if there were a way around the requirement to pay VAT on shared or outsourced operations. Not only will there be ﬁnancial implications but mutually beneﬁcial initiatives between institutions would create better services to help maintain the UK’s global higher education position.
As budgets to university libraries are cut and institutions assess where funds can be used to best effect, there is undoubtedly a place for the British Library and others to support the higher education sector. In today’s climate of signiﬁcant technological change and the medium term ﬁnancial difﬁculties, researchers require innovative initiatives such as a proposed online version of the British Library’s current National Postgraduate Training Days which could offer tailored information to help researchers get the most out of available resources and facilities. Projects such as this would open up and broaden access to a higher number of researchers and enable further collaborations with higher education institutions.
There are difﬁcult challenges ahead and in some ways, there has never been a better time for the higher education sector and the British Library to work more closely and explore new ways of connecting up our expertise, content and information services for the beneﬁt of UK higher education.
For more information on the British Library’s higher education department, visit http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/acrossuk/highered/heoverview.html
Chloé Titcomb is Key Accounts Partnership Ofﬁcer at the British Library.