Libraries and Austerity in Higher Education
Samuel B. Saul
Apart from the fees paid by overseas students, funding for British universities is provided almost entirely by the government, partly through home student fees whose level and extent is set by government but mainly by direct grants distributed by the University Grants Committee (UGC) which determines, and in some small measure directs, the use of the money available for each individual institution. Large capital grants for buildings, including extensions to libraries, are directly controlled by the UGC, though universities are free to make their own decisions as to the funds they wish to devote to minor works. Funds are available from private sources for library acquisitions but excluding the very special position of the libraries of Oxford and Cambridge, such donations are so small or so specialized that we can ignore them for the purposes of the present discussion, It should be remembered too, that by the standards of many American institutions, British universities are relatively small, ranging from 14,000 to 3,000 students, and in a purely economic sense this might be considered wasteful of library resources. The general position seems to be that whereas staff-student ratios at undergraduate level are generous by international standards, libraries in general are less favorably treated.
The universities have suffered a steady reduction in the real