The National Archives (TNA) and Research Libraries UK (RLUK) have today issued an Invitation To Tender (ITT) for the provision of a Research Study into Collecting Drivers for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) with Archives and Unique and Distinctive Collections (UDCs).

The core objective for the study is to demonstrate how collecting drivers within the HE sector reflect or are determined by changes in the institutional, national or global research environment including current research and teaching policy development.

The study will be framed around three fundamental questions:

1. Collecting in Higher Education: the current situation

2. The drivers for collecting across the Higher Education sector

3. The challenges and potential channels for future collecting

Key activities will be to map the HE collections landscape; identify strengths and weaknesses in collecting; and make recommendations to support strategic collection development and the future sustainability of HE collecting activity within the wider archive sector.

The study will be conducted from the beginning of March to the end of October 2016.

The full ITT is detailed below or you can download the ITT as a PDF.

Please note that RLUK will be the contracting body for the study but that all enquiries and responses should be sent to: Cathy Williams, Head of Collections Strategy, The National Archives (


INVITATION TO TENDER for provision of a:

Research Study into Collecting Drivers for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) with Archives and Unique and Distinctive Collections (UDCs) 

on behalf of Research Libraries UK and The National Archives

Issue date: Friday 8 January 2016
Deadline for clarifications: Monday 18 January 2016 at noon
Deadline for final response: Friday 29 January 2016 at noon  


Research Libraries UK (RLUK) represents the leading and most significant research libraries across the UK and Ireland. RLUK’s mission is to shape the research library agenda and contribute to the wider knowledge economy through innovative projects and services that add value to the impact of the process of research and researcher-training. The National Archives (TNA) is the official archive of the UK government and for England and Wales, making available to the public a vast collection of historical records dating back over 1,000 years. TNA is both a non-ministerial government department and a cultural, academic and heritage institution; and fulfils a leadership role for the archive sector working to secure the future of physical and digital records.  



RLUK and TNA wish to commission a research study to establish and examine the collecting drivers for archival collections among Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The core premise of this research will be to demonstrate how these collecting drivers correspond with the changing drivers in the institutional, national or global research environment, and whether any noticeable change has occurred in line with policy focus and development. It will identify areas of actual or perceived vulnerability in collecting – particularly among science, engineering and medical subjects – and provide valuable information regarding the possible re-homing of orphan or ‘at risk’ collections in relation to regional or national collecting strengths.

This research will inform TNA’s continued engagement with the HE archival sector through initiatives such as the Higher Education Archives Programme (HEAP); and will provide information for RLUK’s potential contribution to other TNA programmes, including the Cataloguing Grants Scheme. It will contribute to RLUK’s strategic goal of developing a shared approach to the management of print, manuscript and archive collections and its commitment to best practice in collecting collaboration. It will also support TNA’s leadership activities by improving the sustainability of existing collections, and providing direction for future strategic collections development across the wider archive and cultural heritage sectors. RLUK and TNA have a memorandum of understanding that celebrates and furthers their joint commitment to research and collections.



This research will be framed around three fundamental questions, each with specific delivery requirements: 

1: Collecting in Higher Education: the current situation

  • Map the current collections landscape, and identify themes and subject areas collected across the Higher Education sector based on:
    • collection strengths evidenced through public statements, collections and collections development policies, and recent acquisitions and purchases;
    • existing TNA and RLUK information sources – including accessions data, collections strategies and sector-specific surveys; and
    • previously-conducted research into collection gaps and overlaps.

2: The drivers for collecting across the Higher Education sector

  • Identify the collecting drivers for archives and Unique and Distinctive Collections (UDCs) within Higher Education Institutions (HEIs); and illustrate any correlation between trends in research, teaching and collecting practices.
  • Establish how changing collecting drivers reflect shifts in institutional, national or global research environments; and can be traced through HE sector policy initiatives including the impact agenda, Research Excellence Framework (REF), Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and research council grand challenges.
  • Assess impact of wider HE context on collecting behaviours, including corporate priorities for recruitment, branding and social inclusion, and conflicting demands for resources.
  • Determine the factors causing potential gaps in collecting, especially across science, engineering and medical subject areas and including digital records, both ‘born digital’ and digital surrogates.
  • Identify new collection types and themes which reflect changes in research, teaching and learning practices; and parallel shifts in archival practice to include research data management and preservation.
  • Provide evidence to support finding homes for orphaned or ‘at risk’ collections indicative of regional or national collecting strengths.
  • Deliver an overview of the funding landscape, identifying sources to support strategic collecting and including evidence of future priorities for funders.
  • Make recommendations for collaborative approaches to collecting across the HE sector – within the context of the wider archive landscape – to avoid duplicated collecting activity and to improve discoverability for users.
  • Provide case studies to reflect findings and support recommendations.

3: The challenges and potential channels for future collecting

  • Describe the challenges for selecting, acquiring and accessing digital collections, including the changing global rights framework.
  • Suggest how HE archivists might demonstrate the value of collections and collecting by identifying effective institutional levers to encourage continuing investment in archive services.
  • Make recommendations for HEI contributions to archival networks to support cross-sectoral strategic collecting as part of a national distributed collection, and with reference to the Higher Education Archives Programme (HEAP) and the Guide to collaboration between the archive and higher education sectors (TNA/RLUK October 2014).


1. Conduct desk research and analysis of existing data sources focusing on a representative group of HEIs across a defined and agreed time period.

2. Consult with HEIs (archivists, UDC professionals, academics, managers and executives, students), with RLUK, TNA and their strategic partners.

3. Deliver report, case studies and other supporting material to RLUK and TNA.

4. Present report, research aims and methodology at DCDC16 Conference (tbc).



  • The appointment of a contractor will be decided by a joint panel of representatives from RLUK and TNA; and RLUK will be the contracting body.
  • The price for this contract is capped at £15,000 (excluding VAT) and bids are invited at or below this price.
  • The appointed contractor will agree to meet all project milestones and to complete the project to the satisfaction of TNA and RLUK by 31 October 2016, unless all Parties agree to a change in the project timetable. If the work has not been completed in accordance with the project plan, TNA and RLUK may require repayment of an appropriate proportion of the grant.
  • The final report and any case studies, models or associated written material generated as part of the project will be Crown Copyright. Copies of this material will be supplied to TNA and RLUK at or before the end of the project to be published online and used freely by each organisation – jointly or otherwise – in the course of their business activities.


Tender submissions will be evaluated on a combination of Price (40%) and Quality of Response (60%).  



Please respond by:

  • describing how you would meet the requirements described in the Project Specification;
  • providing relevant evidence of your research experience and expertise, including details of relevant projects successfully completed in the past two years;
  • providing a total price for project delivery excluding VAT.

The National Archives and RLUK reserve the right not to appoint and to achieve the outcomes of the project through other methods.



  • Invitation To Tender (ITT) published – Friday 8 January 2016
    • Deadline for clarification questions – Monday 18 January at noon
    • Deadline for responses – Friday 29 January 2016 at noon
    • Potential supplier interviews – w/c Monday 15 February  
    • Contract award – w/c Monday 22 February
    • Project completion – end October 2016


Please send your clarifying questions and tender response to:

Cathy Williams (Head of Collections Strategy, TNA)

PLEASE NOTE: RLUK will be the contracting body for this research study.

Top image courtesy of the University of Bristol Library, Special Collections