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National research libraries

We have for a long time had a stake in the funding and management of the higher education (HE) research library system. 

‌ The aims of our activity in this area are to ensure that:

  • the national academic research community has access to library collections of exceptional importance 
  • the host institutions are compensated for the additional cost of developing, maintaining and opening these collections on behalf of the research sector as a whole.

Our support so far

In 2015-16 we provided funding over £6 million to support the five designated national research libraries.

These libraries play a major part in the national research infrastructure and accommodate collections of international importance. Our funding is provided to contribute to the additional costs incurred by these libraries in providing a service to the UK HE sector.

Review of funding for research libraries

We commissioned Professor Sir Ivor Crewe to conduct a review of HEFCE funding for research libraries. The review examined whether firm reasons for continued funding remain, and whether the current level and focus of the funding is still relevant in light of new technologies and changes in research library practice.

The subsequent report recommended that a number of academic libraries should be designated as National Research Libraries (NRLs) and should receive supplementary funding. Under the criteria for NRL status, libraries must:

  • have a unique collection or critical mass of rare material
  • make a significant and essential contribution to the national research base
  • incur associated costs beyond which the host higher education institution could be expected to bear
  • have a track record of high quality services to external users.

The following were designated as NRLs:

  • Cambridge University Library
  • The British Library of Political and Economic Science - London School of Economics
  • The University of Manchester Library
  • The Bodleian Library - The University of Oxford
  • School of Oriental and African Studies library 

Page last updated 24 May 2016