Universities and the Procurement Act 2023

United Kingdom

The legal landscape in the UK for procurement is changing this year. This quick update summarises the impact this may have on UK universities.

To the extent a university considers its activities to be caught by the current procurement regulations (there are separate Scottish and English regulations), the new Procurement Act 2023 will have an impact on its procurement activities.  It is worth noting that some universities do not consider their activities to be regulated. 

For universities in Scotland, the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015 (which derive from EU Directives) continue to provide the rules applicable to the procurement of works, services and supplies over the applicable financial thresholds. So, business as usual for now.

For universities in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the procurement of works, services and supplies over the applicable financial thresholds (from 1 January 2024: £429,809 for supplies and services, £5,372,609 for works) will be governed by the Procurement Act 2023.  The Procurement Act received royal assent in October 2023.  There will be a round of further rules and guidance with the new regime expected to be fully effective in Autumn 2024.   The intention of the Act is to make procurement simpler, faster, more transparent, and less bureaucratic.

The Act also has a definite focus on transparency. Universities will need to comply with the additional notification requirements in respect of contracts to be awarded, contracts awarded and contract changes, including how this information should be presented to the market.  This will naturally involve an additional administrative burden until the internal processes are in place to support these notification requirements.   

In addition, the procedures available for awarding works, services and supplies have been reduced and universities will need to familiarise themselves with the new compliant routes to market.   The Act provides greater flexibility to universities to design procurement procedures that meets their needs and this opportunity, where embraced, could allow simpler and faster procurement.

Universities subject to the Procurement Act 2023 are advised to get up to speed now on the new requirements of the Act to ensure there is no interruption in their procurement activities and to avoid the potential for compliance issues later.  For updates, FAQs and additional materials, please see the CMS Procurement Cube, available here.