Public Sector: Northern universities on hunt for agencies

Two universities in northern England are seeking PR support for their business and management departments, despite the further education sector facing major funding cuts.

Both Lancaster and Northumbria universities are in the final stages of awarding contracts to third-party comms consultancies.

Business Secretary Vince Cable last week suggested there could be radical measures put in place to help cope with deep cuts to university funding. In his first key speech on universities, Cable said he had asked Lord Browne to look at the possibility of a graduate tax in his review of higher education funding in England.

If implemented, the tax system would see high-earning graduates paying more than those on low incomes.

Lancaster University Management School, which currently uses Burson-Marsteller, is reviewing agency support and is set to announce the winner of the tender this week. A Lancaster spokeswoman said: 'Management schools have different needs to other university faculties. Our management school has received external PR support for some years.'

Meanwhile, Northumbria University closed submissions on Monday for a PR agency to help develop the reputation of the Newcastle Business School through media coverage, with its current contract with Communications Management due to expire.

The brief suggests it will award the contract to the most 'economically advantageous tenderer' on 23 August, with the one-year contract expected to commence in October and the option to extend for a further 12 months.

Although the budget is not given in the brief, previous spend by the university on public relations for the Business School has typically been in the region of £75,000 per annum.

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