Cambridge stands with UK Universities in Elsevier deal to achieve read & publish access for all 

On 23 March 2022, the outcome was announced of negotiations between UK Universities and academic publisher Elsevier.  

A contract has been agreed, providing both unlimited open access publishing and access to paywalled journal articles for a significant reduction on the current institutional spend. The three-year deal has also secured a cost reduction and price cap on publishing in Elsevier’s fully open access journals.

UK Universities have accepted this deal as it meets all the core requirements set out by the sector, including the requirement to materially reduce existing expenditure and to provide full and immediate open access publishing to all UK researchers at all UK institutions.

Members of the University of Cambridge will see some changes in the way they can publish in Elsevier journals.

Authors have the option to publish open access without paying separate article processing charges (APCs) in eligible Elsevier subscription journals including the Lancet and Cell Press titles.

This open access agreement follows the 'read and publish' model, in which authors are not charged individually to publish open access. Rather Elsevier receives payment for providing access to subscription journals AND payment for publishing, bundled into a single contract.

Authors can publish in fully open access Elsevier journals.

Article Processing Charges will apply and may be paid on your behalf by the University via specific grants received from research funders.

Existing Elsevier content which the University of Cambridge subscribes to or has perpetual access to can be accessed using a Raven login.

The new deal in brief

The agreement significantly reduces the total sector spend.

  • It provides a reduction on subscription spend to all UK universities;
  • it ensures a discount on APCs, and a cap on APC price increases for open access publishing in Elsevier's portfolio of fully open access titles.
This is the world’s largest Open Access agreement with Elsevier and is unique both in the level of savings and the access it delivers and is a major step in the transition towards full, equitable and affordable transition to open scholarship [...] alongside the sector’s other open access agreements, 80% of UK research can be made open access at no cost to authors. 
Liam Earney, Jisc’s Managing Director of Higher Education and Research


How did the University of Cambridge contribute to this outcome?

Elsevier’s seventh proposal was received at the end of December 2021.

In January 2022, as at every stage of these negotiations, members of the University of Cambridge were invited to contribute their voice to shape the University’s response to this offer. 

UK Universities were near-unanimous in the recommendation to accept Elsevier’s seventh offer.

Cambridge committed to standing unified as part of this sector-wide deal to secure read and public access for all with a significant reduction in sector spend, but the University is determined to help develop alternative academic-led open solutions.

This is now an exciting period of development.  

Throughout these negotiations, our academic community shared a wide range of views - underlining the critical value of being able to access and evaluate current research, and questioning the financial structures and quality measures used in academic publishing models.  

Whilst we do not have solutions that would enable all disciplines to move confidently away from Elsevier at this time, these values are at the heart of the sector's Plan B, developed in case an acceptable deal with Elsevier was not reached. We continue to build on this planning, and our community can already benefit from:  

  • faster ways to discover and access the content you need;
  • closer networks and partnerships across the sector that enable us to work together effectively;
  • evolving strategies and policies to support authors who are publishing openly.
"Our community’s feedback on these negotiations with Elsevier, and the extensive work done across UK Universities to prepare for these negotiations, indicate an appetite for cultural shift. While standing with the community to achieve a sector-wide deal was important, the University has also, through the process, strengthened its determination to develop alternative academic-led open solutions that advance open science."
Professor Nigel Peake, Chair of the Journals Coordination Scheme

The UK Elsevier agreement sets a new standard for negotiations with major suppliers, not just in terms of cost reduction and increased service offering, but in what UK Universities can achieve when we work collectively and in partnership. 

The University of Cambridge and its libraries are already working to define and plan our next steps.

We need sustainable options to enable authors to engage ever more closely with scholarly communication solutions that are open, with publishers that are trusted and aligned to our academic mission.

The collective knowledge and power of the unified UK Universities sector will drive this innovation, and we welcome the opportunity to work with colleagues in other institutions and organisations nationally and internationally on this.

"We are enormously proud that our academic community has been so actively engaged with this process throughout the past year. Your consideration of all aspects of these negotiations has shaped the University of Cambridge’s response to the offers that have been proposed this time, and how we contribute to future negotiations. Thank you for your involvement. We invite you all to continue your commitment as we further enable open research at Cambridge, and to help us to develop our strategies for open scholarly communication aligned to the principles of DORA that seek to ensure that research outputs are measured accurately and evaluated wisely."
Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Cambridge
"I want to congratulate the national negotiating team and the teams in Cambridge University Libraries who have led such a positive and engaging campaign, resulting in both a deal that all UK HEIs will benefit from and a stronger institutional commitment to strategically developing open and equitable publishing solutions"
Dr Jessica Gardner, University Librarian and Director of Library Services, University of Cambridge

Dr Jessica Gardner, University Librarian and Director of Library Services, seated in her office, smiling.,

To stay involved in shaping the future of scholarly communication at Cambridge:

Discover more on this story on our webpages, University of Cambridge and Elsevier, where we will publish details of the new contract as they become available.   

What do you think about this outcome? Share your response by emailing

Photos by Alice Boagey, @AliceTheCamera, for Cambridge University Libraries

Thanks to Jisc for their material, and for their response to this agreement.

The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.