Publishers ‘must drop fees in wake of Covid-19’ – Jisc/UUK

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Major academic publishers are being urged to reduce their prices by 25 per cent on all agreements in light of the severe financial impact institutions are facing because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a joint letter on behalf of the sector, the Universities UK Jisc content negotiation strategy group says it ‘recognises the tremendous support publishers have offered to institutions and colleges as they responded by opening up their content and collections during the start of the crisis’. It continues: ‘The focus of institutions is now on preparing for online delivery in September and examining what digital content they can afford to maintain access to against the budgetary efficiencies they will need to deliver.’

Chair of the UUK/Jisc content negotiation strategy group, Stephen Decent, said: ‘The depth of the financial challenge facing universities and their libraries is unprecedented. Institutions need not only to continue existing provision of content but to further enhance the range of content available online to students, researchers and staff. This places extraordinary pressure on budgets which are already seeing cuts of up to 40 per cent at some universities. Tough decisions will need to be made and cancellations at some institutions are a reality.’

In the letter the group urges publishers to work with Jisc to implement discounts and measures to provide flexible pricing that offers institutions meaningful options.

Decent added: ‘Our collaborative effort should result in the ability to reduce expenditure without disproportionate loss of content, especially now that many universities will be reviewing the balance of budgets between supporting digital learning and supporting research.’

Universities UK has also highlighted the financial risks for universities in a paper sent to the chancellor, secretaries of state for education and business, and to the minister for universities and science, research and innovation.

The paper outlines that the sector is expecting loss of income from accommodation, catering and conferences in the region of £790m. On top of that, UUK modelling shows that fee income from international (non-EU and EU) students could total £6.9 billion across the UK higher education sector.