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Developing a global academic network on public procurement

The University of Nottingham has received an award of €450 000 (£322,371) to develop a global academic research and teaching network on public procurement regulation.

The award, from the European Union’s Asia Link programme, has been made to Professor Sue Arrowsmith, Director of the Public Procurement Research Group in the School of Law.

Professor Arrowsmith will be the leading partner and project leader of a consortium that also includes Copenhagen Business School, the Central University of Finance and Economics and Xinjiang University in China, and the University of Malaya, Malaysia.

The grant will be used in a three year project to develop research and teaching at university level in public procurement regulation.

Academic capacity in public procurement education at university level is currently embryonic or non-existent in Asian developing countries, and this hinders sound policy development. This is especially the case given that in some Asian countries, including China, the academic voice is perhaps the only professional and independent public voice in government policy making.

The project, which will run from January 2008 to January 2011, aims to develop a capacity in this area in Asian universities, initially in China and Malaysia, but eventually across the whole continent. In addition, the network will promote and enhance European Union (EU) teaching and research on public procurement regulation, which has only recently developed as a distinct academic discipline. It will also enhance global trade dialogues by improving EU understanding of procurement issues affecting Asia.

Professor Arrowsmith said: “This award recognises the increasingly important role of public procurement policy in modern economies and trade and its potential contribution to good governance. Public procurement regulation has only recently been recognised as a distinct subject of academic study and this award will help ensure that universities can contribute fully to the future development of effective and ethical procurement policies, both in developed and developing countries.”

Public procurement refers to the process by which governments acquire — usually from the private sector — the goods, services and construction works they need, from simple items such as pens and paper clips through to complex structures such as power stations. Sound regulation of public procurement is needed for many reasons, including to avoid wasting resources, to put in place the infrastructure for economic development, and to ensure quality public services in health, utilities, sanitation etc. It is also important in fighting corruption, addressing environmental problems and developing a competitive private-sector market. In addition, countries need effective policies for participating in current initiatives for opening up government markets to trade, which are now at a critical stage, particularly for China.

Activities funded under the project include:

•Setting up a permanent global academic network of scholars working in the field of public procurement regulation — both those in law schools and those working in other discipline such as economics, politics and management

•Developing an innovative postgraduate curriculum on procurement regulation, based on international/comparative materials

•Exchange visits and workshops to support research and postgraduate teaching. Workshops will cover, for example, research methods and methodologies in the context of public procurement regulation, with a focus on comparative, international and interdisciplinary research

•Production of an extensive bibliography to support global research and teaching activities

•Production of specialist textbooks to support teaching and course development activities

•Translation of leading international academic and legal texts into Chinese

•A series of major conferences of academics, practitioners and policy makers (in Nottingham, Kuala Lumpur and Beijing).

The University of Nottingham's Public Procurement Research Group is a global leader in research and teaching on public procurement regulation. Research projects span areas as diverse as EU and World Trade Organisation (WTO) procurement law, tied aid procurement, defence procurement, and developing country procurement reform, and the group works closely with both national governments and international organisations.

Professor Arrowsmith has been instrumental in establishing public procurement law as a recognized academic discipline at national and global level.

One of the primary objectives of Professor Arrowsmith’s work has been to support effective development of the emerging legal framework on public procurement at both national and international level, by proposing solutions for legal development — whether through legislation, judicial development or policy guidance — that are both conceptually coherent and practically sound.

For many years she has also brought together the intellectual and practical aspects of the subject by participating directly in law reform activities. For more than ten years she has been a member of the European Commission’s, Advisory Committee for the Opening Up of Public Procurement, advising extensively on the EU’s new legislation on public procurement (eventually adopted in 2004) as it made its way through the legislative process. More recently, as a member of the UNCITRAL Experts Group on Procurement she has been closely involved in the reform of the United Nations’ “Model Law” on procurement which has served as a template for reform in more than 40 countries around the world, working to up date the Model Law in light of new developments such as the expansion of electronic procurement. She has also advised numerous other public and private bodies on legal reform and development, including the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom, the World Trade Organisation, the OECD, the European Central Bank and the International Labour Organisation.

In July 2007 she was awarded the Chartered Institute of Purchasing Supply’s Swinbank Medal for thought leadership and innovation in the purchasing and supply profession — the first women, and the first legal academic, to receive the Medal in its 56 year history. She is also honorary Adjunct Professor at Copenhagen Business School and the only female Foundation Professor of the CIPS.

Emma Thorne | alfa
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