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An outline of each procedure identified in the threshold table in Requirement for Competitive Bids is detailed below and template documentation is available for each.

Please refer to Procurement Services website for current downloadable versions.

The relevant documentation should be sent to suppliers, allowing them a reasonable time to respond. Further guidance and advice on all the procedures and on receiving, opening and recording quotations and tenders is available on Procurement Services website or by contacting Procurement Services direct. In summary the procedures are as detailed below.

When applying the threshold procedure, first priority should be seeking prices from the Preferred suppliers framework agreements and/or the marketplace as per the thresholds table, on then when/if your requirement cannot be met, then you go to the "other purchases" instructions.

Written price confirmation

Prices can be obtained over the telephone or web for goods or services, which are easily specified against the University's standard terms and conditions but you, must obtain written confirmation of the price given by the supplier. This method is appropriate for very simple purchases of low value.

Request for competitive quotations

Competitive quotations involve seeking a bona fide written price (including via fax and email) and delivery time for goods or services, which are easily specified against the University's standard terms and conditions. The bids are not sealed. This method is appropriate for technically simple purchases of low to medium value (see table under Requirement for Competitive Bids). At least three suppliers are asked to quote in writing. They should be provided with a short and simple functional specification or description, together with quantities and delivery requirements.

Request for competitive proposals

Competitive proposals involve seeking bona fide written proposals for goods or services, which are easily specified against the University's standard terms and conditions, although in some cases, special terms and conditions may be more appropriate. Suppliers submit bids in sealed envelopes, all bids are then opened together to ensure transparency.

The process is similar to that of the invitation to tender, but the documentation is shorter and simpler. This method is appropriate for purchases of medium value (see table at Requirement for Competitive Bids) and where a more detailed specification is required. At least three suppliers are asked to submit a proposal in writing. They should be provided with a functional specification or description, together with quantities and delivery requirements.

Invitation to tender (ITT)

Competitive tendering is a formal bidding procedure for all large projects: intended to ensure that all of the costs of a proposed purchase are considered and that the selection of suppliers is seen to be impartial. They are all sealed bids.

IT Tenders and those with high value or complex specifications, may require special terms and conditions which replace the University's Standard Terms.

Higher-value (<£50,000), complex, or long-term contracts, including those below EU regulations must also be put out to competitive tender.

The stages of the tender process are as follows.

tender process


1 Develop a purchasing timetable to ensure there is adequate time to carry out the tendering exercise. In complex cases project management skills may be needed to ensure the procurement phase is completed in an organised, timely fashion.
2 Ensure that all resources and funding have been identified and agreed.
3 Prepare a tender specification. It is important that this should be functional, that is, describing the item in terms of its intended function and the required level of performance, rather than simply a generic description or brand name. A well-drafted specification will set the quality and performance standards for the resulting contract, and will provide the greatest scope for maximising value for money. See Procurement Services web pages.
4 An appropriate number of suppliers (at least 3) should be then selected, in line with Financial Regulations and where applicable, any EU procurement procedures.
5 Returned tenders should be evaluated in accordance with the award criteria published in the Invitation to Tender.
6 Post-tender negotiation may take place, provided that this is seen to be fair and equitable. Where an EU procedure applies, negotiation may only take place if allowed for in that procedure.
7 The final decision should be clearly documented and the appropriate contract documentation concluded.

Confidentiality of information

The normal principles are that:

  • During the competition process bidder information is kept confidential and one bidder's offer, in particular pricing information, must not be disclosed to another bidder. Disclosing pricing information is not good purchasing practice. It undermines the University's reputation for fair dealing and will deter bidders from dealing with the University in the future.
  • In complex processes where the specification is developed during the process it may be appropriate to share ideas but this must be done in an agreed and controlled manner. Ensure that the University does not take design responsibility unintentionally (removing it from the supplier's shoulders). If the University is to disclose or contribute to the development of intellectual property, consider whether ownership should be retained in some way or whether later use/re-use by the University has been protected sufficiently. In either case seek advice and put appropriate agreements in place.
  • After the competition process is completed (normally after 12 months) all information may end up in the public domain through a freedom of information request made by a member of the public. This is of course subject to the need to keep restricted any truly confidential information and information where the commercial interests of the bidder outweigh the public interest in disclosure.

Third party confidentiality obligations

Therefore, consider the impact of confidentiality obligations which a third party seeks to impose in respect of information provided to you.

  • Consider the duties on the University under Freedom of Information Act 2000. Do not accept that all information provided to you by a supplier should be regarded as confidential. Information received will be subject to disclosure under the Act. The model form of 'Invitation to Tender' addresses obligations under the Act and requires bidders to say what information in their bid is confidential and should not be disclosed.

    Staff should follow the specific route in relation to any request under the Freedom of Information Act and contact Procurement Services for advice and assistance.

  • In addition consider how the competition process is to be designed (and any special rules laid down) to ensure that confidentiality of information is handled appropriately:

    • What kind of information should fairly be agreed to be treated as confidential?
    • What information might you wish to share with third parties?

Make sure the documentation inviting bids sets out any necessary rules about sharing and/or confidentiality of bidder information.

University Guidance on FOI can be found on the University web pages

Note on capital equipment purchases

Such purchases often require detailed financial and contractual assessment. The National Audit Office has issued valuable checklists, which have been circulated among Departments; further copies may be obtained from Procurement Services. A Guide to purchasing capital equipment may be found on Procurement Services website.

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