Follett Report

Chapter 3 - Background Factors

The Student Population

Between 1988-89 and 1992-93 the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) Home and EC undergraduate students rose by 57 per cent from 517,000 to 811,000 (not counting 43,000 students in former DFE funded institutions). Although the extent of this growth has widely between institutions, all parts of the UK have experienced growth at a similar rate. This is illustrated in figure 1.
Initial figures for enrolments in 1993-94 suggest that while growth has slowed slightly, it is still continuing. The data show that total numbers are likely to reach approximately 900,000, and even if next year's enrolments do not rise further, the continuing effect of existing growth in enrolments will mean that total numbers will continue to rise. The Government's overall objective is to raise numbers of undergraduate students (FTE) yet further to 1,170,000 by the year 2000.
To a considerable extent growth is being achieved by an increase in the proportion of 18 year olds entering higher education. However, it is also in part due to a significant increase in "non traditional" students, such as mature students or those who are studying part-time. In 1991-92, for instance, 55 per cent of all HE students, and 45 per cent of new entrants, were aged 21 or over. Students of this kind often place additional or distinctive demands on library services.
This growth has been the most significant since the post Robbins developments of the 1960s and has been widely welcomed. But it has also occurred at a time when HEIs have been expected to make significant annual efficiency gains, and when capital spending in particular has been constrained. A serious concern in these circumstances has been how far the infrastructure of teaching and learning support in HEIs, especially library and related services, can cope with growth. Particular areas which are often said to be under stress include:
The impact of recent expansion on these areas and others relating to library provision is illustrated in figure 2.

Investment in Libraries in Higher Education

The major part played by libraries in meeting the information needs of staff and students is illustrated by the scale of investment in them. They represent one of the single most important categories of expenditure made by higher education institutions. Total recurrent spending on libraries across the HE sector as a whole currently exceeds 200 million each year (Figures for 1991-92, the latest available, show expenditure of 134 million in the former UFC-sector universities; and 49.5 million in the 'new' universities. Figures are not available for the HE colleges). There are also substantial costs associated with maintaining library space.
Much of this spending - just over half in most institutions - comprises investment in library staff. In the former UFC sector, the total number of staff working in libraries exceeded 2,500 in 1991-92, and there were over 1,600 working in the former English polytechnic sector (SCONUL and COPOL Annual Statistics, 1991-92).
In the same year, 28 million was spent on books, and 35 million on periodicals (This does not include former Scottish CIs; Sources USR, COPOL Annual Statistics 1991-92, and HCLRG Survey 1993).
The space occupied by libraries is also substantial, and the value and importance the stock which they hold (books, periodicals, manuscripts, and other material) is considerable. Virtually every student in higher education will make significant use of the library, as will academic staff in connection with both their teaching and research responsibilities. Libraries in higher education are providing for well over one million users each year.

Prices and Costs

In the last decade there has been a disproportionate increase in the price of books and periodicals, and in the volume of publications, especially periodicals. The total number of periodicals cited in Ulrich's International Periodicals directory rose from 62,000 in 1980 to 126,000 in 1992; (see figure 3), and while between 1980-81 and 1991-92 the Blackwell's Periodicals Price index rose by almost 300 per cent, library spending within HE institutions on periodicals rose on average only by 111 per cent, and the RPI by even less, 71 per cent.
.These trends have intensified in the last two years, with continuing substantial increases in periodical prices and in the prices of specialist monographs. The prospect for 1994 is worse, with prices rising faster than ever as a result of the combination of the recent weakness of sterling against continental European and United States currencies, and the (often associated) "harmonisation" of many periodical subscription rates with prices elsewhere in Europe, which almost invariably means an increase in UK rates. Blackwell's currently estimates that there will be an average price increase of between 17 per cent and 25 per cent during 1994.

Trends in Library Spending

Concern over increases in prices and costs has been compounded by trends in library spending in the last decade. Rising costs have created major problems for academic libraries, and expenditure has not been able to keep pace with price rises. As a result libraries have found it necessary to reduce the number of periodicals to which they subscribe, or to avoid taking out subscriptions to new journals. Attempts to protect periodical spending have often been at the expense of book purchasing. There is a vicious circle in which higher prices prompt more cancellations, which in turn promote further price rises.
In many respects, libraries have faced more difficult pressures than other areas of higher education. Although in former UFC institutions (combined data for all HE institutions does not exist for these years) total spending on libraries between 1980-81 and 1990-91 more than kept pace with the increase in the retail price index (RPI), the RPI is an inadequate benchmark in the case of book and periodical prices because they have risen at a much faster rate than the RPI. (See figure 4). They have also risen faster than other university costs as expressed in the Universities Pay and Prices Index (UPPI) as depicted in figure 5.
Particular concern is often expressed over two features of recent trends which are shown in figure 6. First, spending on libraries in the former UFC sector has declined as a proportion of total institutional recurrent expenditure: spending on libraries formed just over four per cent of such expenditure in 1980-81, but this had fallen to about 2.8 per cent in 1991-92 (the latest year for which information is available). The second feature is the decline in overall library expenditure per capita (including both students and staff); and the more significant decline in spending on books per capita (see figures 6 and 7).
Comparable data for former English PCFC sector institutions suggest broadly similar trends, with expenditure on libraries as a percentage of total recurrent spending declined from just under five per cent in 1984-85 to about four per cent by the end of the 1980s; and some decline in real book and periodical expenditure per capita during the 1980's (see figures 7, 8 and 9).
As in other areas of higher education the decline in library spending per capita may partly be the result of increases in efficiency and productivity on the part of libraries themselves. Per capita spend has declined in almost every area of higher education, as student numbers have risen. It is also possible that the decline in library spending as a proportion of universities' total recurrent spending is the result of conscious decisions to divert resources into other areas, some of which may complement library provision. However, while it is not possible to obtain reliable figures for spending on all categories of information provision, much of the investment in IT which has taken place will have had only a limited impact on information provision.
The data cited above represent averages across what is now a very diverse sector, and there are inevitably substantial variations between institutions. Figures 13-16 illustrate some of these. They underline the heterogeneity of library provision in higher education, and the different approaches adopted in order to meet users' needs. They also point to the need for care in interpreting such data, since the relationship between a particular index and the quality or scale of provision is not always straightforward.

The Organisation of Teaching and Learning

As well as growth in student numbers, the review has also taken place at a time when many other developments in HE are creating a new environment for those aspects of library and related provision which support teaching. Some of these developments create opportunities for improvements, and others create new and more diverse demands. In each case however they have contributed to the need for reassessment.
These developments include:
Changes in the make-up of the student population, with more part-time and mature students, who tend to create different demands on libraries.
Modularisation, which is proceeding apace in many HEIs, and which has implications for the way in which libraries are managed.
An increasing focus on the needs and perspective of students as "users" of libraries, and on the library as the provider of a service.
Changes in teaching and learning methods which put more stress on student centred learning, and require the coherent development of learning and information resources of which libraries are a part.
A decline in students' book purchasing. This is in part the result of disproportionate increases in book prices, but may also relate to changes in the student support system.
Certainly, the results of the LISU survey showed a consistent trend whereby students in all subject areas were relying less on their own purchases to meet their needs for books (figure 9).
Developments in information technology, which often complement those at (d) and which equally place new demands on libraries, students and their teachers.
New approaches to quality assessment and performance indicators, which highlight the need to examine the role of libraries in supporting quality.


As noted above, a major concern over recent years has been the rate of increase in periodical prices, especially scientific periodicals, and the growth in their number. The result has been that periodicals are taking an increasing share of library spending (see figure 10), and there are renewed pressures to cancel titles and reduce coverage. These trends have been well documented (for instance in the LISU Annual Library Statistics, 1992), but there has as yet been no clear strategy for dealing with the problems created. While recognising the complexities of the situation, and the limitations on what the UK alone can achieve, the Review Group has sought to address this difficult problem.
Three other quite unrelated developments have also made clear the need for a reassessment of the role of libraries in supporting research:
First, greater selectivity in the allocation of research funding by the UFC and its successor councils has highlighted the fact that by no means all HE libraries can or should be expected to provide support for research to the same extent as they do for teaching. This raises the question of how library provision in support of research can most effectively be made, bearing in mind that research collections are unevenly distributed between HEIs.
Second, new advances in IT have made it much easier to envisage the common use of research facilities. In particular, electronic document delivery and on-line catalogue and database facilities have highlighted the possibilities for developing a regional and national network of specialist research provision, with the emphasis on access rather than holdings.
Third, the Government recently announced its decision that a Humanities Research Council should not be established; and that public funding in support of research and research facilities in the humanities should continue to be allocated largely through the HEFCs. This has emphasised the importance for research in the humanities of the funding provided by the HEFCs which is used to support library and related provision.

Information Technology

The business of libraries is the provision and management of information, and developments in technology which facilitate these operations have opened up many new possibilities, as well as creating many new demands on libraries. Some of these developments have potentially very wide ranging implications. They may, for instance, facilitate resource sharing and exchange, help to involve libraries and their staff directly in new forms of technologically based teaching and learning, and encourage a change in the role of the library to become a means of access to information wherever it is held.
Technology has already changed the nature of the library, and the rate of change is accelerating, enabling wholly new services to be provided. Students are likely to be increasingly aware of different sources of information, with changed expectations about its provision. Networking developments mean that international communications are possible from the campus and the desktop, and can support new forms of publishing. These advances have management and organisational implications which must be dealt with if they are to be exploited effectively and if library services are to continue to be effective in meeting the needs of their users.
However, whilst technology has the potential fundamentally to change information provision in higher education, even its most optimistic advocates suggest that change take place gradually, and will need to be managed in conjunction with handling traditional library resources. It is very unlikely that books, periodicals and other traditional media will be superseded in the foreseeable future. In the last decade, for instance, when the scope and range of information technology has dramatically increased, so equally has the number of periodicals being published, and the number of books. What is likely is that traditional media will be supplemented by new technology based forms of information storage and dissemination. This is a conclusion which was also reached by the Working Party set up by the Australian National Board of Employment Education and Training, chaired by F G Ross, and whose report was published in December 1990 (Library Provision in Higher Education, Commissioned Report No. 7 Australian National Board of Employment, Education and Training 1990).
The Review Group has sought to take a measured view of the implications and the potential of IT for library services in the UK. It has focused on those areas where developments look to be practical propositions, and has considered whether action might be taken over and above that which might be stimulated by normal commercial developments. However, even with these caveats, the potential created by developments in IT is very considerable, particularly in support of research provision.

The Heterogeneity of the Sector

An important feature of the higher education sector for which the new funding councils are responsible is that it is more heterogeneous as well as larger than its predecessors. Institutions vary enormously in size and character, ranging from small specialist colleges to large universities with over 20,000 students. Many require library provision in support of both teaching and research, but others are devoted largely or even solely to teaching. Some have taken conscious decisions to deploy resources in ways which have favoured other services at the expense of library e library service provided to students will differ from one institution to another because of variations in their aims and objectives; because of differences in the way in which library and related services are organised and funded (the LISU survey showed much variety here); and because of historical factors. The extent of an institution's involvement in research, both now and in the past, will also be important.
An important principle which has therefore been adopted throughout this report is that no single blueprint and no simple prescriptions can be developed to fit the many different types of libraries in higher education.


Issues concerning copyright have arisen in many of the Review Group's discussions, and have been a matter of concern to many in both higher education and publishing for some years.
The main concerns of those seeking to use copyright material is that copyright owners will seek to impose what are seen as excessive restrictions or excessive costs on the use of material. Conversely, copyright owners and publishers fear the loss of legitimate control over their material. The potential for exploitation, and hence the fears of copyright holders, have been greatly intensified by developments in information technology. These threaten not only their revenues but also the integrity of the material over which they possess copyright, as well as the moral rights of authors. The Review Group also noted developments in the United States focusing on the possible co-ownership of copyright in research papers between publishers on the one hand and their academic authors on the other.
The Review Group has considered these issues and they are discussed in more detail n chapter seven. It has made recommendations which, while they will not deal with every difficulty, should represent an important practical step in taking matters forward.

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