18 January 2001 | David Arminas
The London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC) will this month evaluate equipment from prospective suppliers in preparation for what is believed to be higher education's first inter-consortia PC contract.
"All nine potential suppliers are sending equipment to universities to check for quality and that they can do the job," John Ritchie, LUPC director, told SM. "A supplier decision will be made at the beginning of March and it will probably involve more than one supplier."
Ritchie estimates the total spend of the three consortia - the LUPC, the Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (SUPC) and the Joint Consultative and Advisory Committee on Purchasing for Scotland and Northern Ireland - to be about £60 million a year.
"We are looking for added value, such as service, as well as advice on software and the cost of running IT departments," Ritchie said. "There will be visits this month to suppliers for quality assessment." The contract is scheduled to start on 1 April.
The PC contract could be rolled out nationally, but the business case put forward suggests that a tri-regional test run would be supported at first, Ritchie said. A roll-out beyond the three consortia would depend on commercial success. Consortia have always guarded their autonomy, Ritchie noted.
"Increased consortia co-operation is happening because the contract has gone through comprehensive business case development," said Norman Harris, deputy chairman of the SUPC. "The final outcome will offer a choice of two to four suppliers, so people will still have options within the regional contract."
The contract is part of a major sector-wide procurement strategy for the higher education sector that began last summer and is backed by £100,000 from the Joint Procurement Policy and Strategy Group (JPPSG), the sector's purchasing advisory body.
Several areas are being studied to see if there is a business case for creating a national protocol (contract). A national photocopier agreement was rolled out this month and the University of Brighton, where Harris is purchasing services manager, is likely to join in April.
The JPPSG provoked controversy early last year when it appeared to declare that protocols should be mandatory. But it later clarified its position, saying it was merely urging greater co-operation among consortia to ensure that best-value procurement is achieved.