Our Position

The issue of journal prices has been a matter of concern for university libraries for the past couple of decades.  However, the combination of falls in the value of sterling, the international financial collapse and uncertainty in the funding of the UK Higher Education sector has hit British libraries hard.  Budgets are being squeezed and we can no longer afford inflation-busting price rises.

The UK Higher Education sector now spends almost £200m per year on access to journals and databases – 10% of the total QR funding the sector receives – and in the last 10 years, annual journal price inflation has been running at double the rate of RPI. We strongly believe that the impact on library acquisition policies, in particular for monographs, textbooks and journals from smaller publishers, will damage scholarship and teaching in UKHE. At our 2010 conference, we launched an initiative to push for more affordable pricing, and to rescind the unreasonable price rises of these resources over recent years. We look forward to working with JISC Collections and publishers to achieve deals that acknowledge the reality of current budgets and protect the long-term interests of UK universities.

Current multi-year big deals with the two largest journal publishers – Elsevier and Wiley – expire at the end of 2011.  RLUK members have informed JISC Collections, who negotiate deals for UK HE, that they will not sign any new deals with these publishers unless:

  • There are significant, real-term price reductions
  • Prices and price rises are in sterling
  • Payment is made nearer the point of supply, not months in advance

If these conditions are not met, RLUK members will have no choice but to look to alternative means of supply the information needs of users.

For more detail see the press release on journal pricing and a fuller account of RLUK’s position can be found in David Prosser’s article, Reassessing The Value Proposition: First Steps Towards A Fair(Er) Price For Scholarly Journals

Background information

FAQ on journal pricing

In the Media

The ASPI project has been making the news since it’s launch back in November 2010. Related articles:

Price Increases Put U.K. Libraries in a Bind, Wall Street Journal

Cash-strapped libraries threaten to end journal subscription deals over rising costs ,Felix: Imperial College Student Paper

Letter on ASPI published in the Guardian ,The Guardian

Academic publishing, Of goats and headaches ,The Economist


The National Union of Students has endorsed the RLUK position on journal pricing at both its National Conference and its Postgraduate  Conference:

“NUS is 100 per cent behind RLUK’s campaign on journal pricing. For too long private publishing companies have been getting away with gouging universities on journal costs. Access to the latest research is crucial to support a top-quality learning environment for undergraduate and postgraduate students, and it is time the publishing companies made themselves accountable to the wider academic community in the UK”

Financial Analysts’ Reports

Reed Elsevier: The Inevitable Crunch Point – Downgrading to Underperform Because of Growing Concerns on Elsevier

Reed Elsevier: Bringing Down the House – Why Elsevier is Vulnerable in its Upcoming Big Deal Negotiations 

ASPI Steering Group

Phil Sykes – P.Sykes@liverpool.ac.uk

Jan Wilkinson – Jan.Wilkinson@manchester.ac.uk

Anne Jarvis – aem43@cam.ac.uk

David Prosser – david.prosser@rluk.ac.uk


Top image courtesy of Imperial College London Library