SCONUL Access Scheme for UK Universities Students (and Staffs).


This is a post specially written for any students (home or international) in universities across the UK. I shared this information on my Instagram a few weeks ago, and realized that not many people were aware of the scheme. Therefore, I thought that hey, maybe I can share something about it on the blog.

Note: I learnt about this SCONUL Access scheme at work, considering how I am working at the University of Leeds Library. The scheme requirements and process may differ between universities, so please do check with your university’s library about the specific requirements. And do note that not all UK universities will be a part of the SCONUL Access scheme, though most are.

Note 2: This post is targeted mainly towards undergraduates and postgraduates in UK universities. However, the SCONUL Access Scheme is also available to staffs (academic and support) in UK universities. So, if you’re employed by a UK university, you may be eligible to join the scheme too!

So – what is the SCONUL Access Scheme?

It is basically a reciprocal scheme in which students and staff from various UK universities are allowed to go to other UK university libraries to use and/or borrow books and journals at no additional cost.

For example, I am currently a postgraduate taught student at the University of Huddersfield. Through the SCONUL Access scheme, I am eligible to go to other UK universities in the scheme (such as the University of Manchester or the University of Nottingham) to use the library as a study space or borrow some of their books and/or journals.

Pretty cool, eh?

University of Huddersfield, January 2017

What can I get through the SCONUL Access Scheme?

Well, this is where it gets a little tricky.

For undergraduate students, you would only have reference access only through the SCONUL Access. This means that you can:

  1. Enter another UK university’s library and use their study spaces to study / work, and 
  2. Use any books / journals / resources that they have within the library itself.

However, you would not be allowed to check out / borrow any books / journals.

But, if you are a postgraduate student (full time or part time, taught or research) or a staff (academic or support), you would be able to use and borrow books and/or journals from the other participating libraries. 

NOTE: the amount of books and the duration of the loan may differ with each participating university. It would be best to check with each university library on how many books you can borrow at a time and how long you can take it out for.

But why would I need it though?

If you’re a home student (aka a local UK resident), you might have decided to attend a university away from home. You might be from Leeds but attending a university in Manchester, for example. Through the SCONUL Access scheme, this would allow you to have access to a university library in Leeds. This means that whenever you are home (for the weekend, for the Christmas/summer vacation, etc), you can still have access to a library and the resources you may need for your studies.

And if you are an international student (like me!), this would be a great opportunity for you for so many reasons, such as:

  1. Exploring the libraries at other UK universities. Each university library has its own unique characteristics and history. Through the SCONUL Access Scheme, you get to get access to many different university libraries to check them out for free.
  2. Helps when you’re travelling or meeting friends. For example, if you like to travel to other places to visit your friends who are also studying in the UK, this may allow you to have access to the libraries in their universities. So that means that if you have assignments due after a holiday, you can still have access to a library and its resources to do your work.

Okay, that sounds cool, I guess. How do I apply?

First of all, you’ll need to check whether or not you are eligible to apply for the SCONUL Access Scheme. To do so, you can visit the SCONUL Access Scheme website here, and input your information. Don’t worry, they only ask you for the type of customer you are (postgraduate vs undergraduate vs staff) and your home institution.

Once you’ve given them your information, they will provide you with a list of institutions that are accessible by you. For instance, the picture below is what I get after I entered my information. According to them, I can have access to 171 institutions across the UK and Ireland.

SCONUL Access Scheme List University of Huddersfield

From the list of institutions available to you, you then click on the university that you would like to visit / go to. For instance, I want to have access to the University of Manchester, just because it’s one of the closest ones to Huddersfield.

SCONUL Access Scheme Institution Details
The institution details for the university you want to visit.

You would then click Apply for Access and the website will bring you up to an application page. Don’t worry – it’s a very short and easy application page that you can literally fill out in 30 seconds or less.

You just need your name, your email address (preferably your university email) and your Library or Student/Staff ID card.

SCONUL Access Scheme Application Form

Once you’ve clicked submit, voila, application done! They will send you an application notification, just to let you know that the application has gone through.

SCONUL Access Scheme Application Notification

So, now what do I do once I’ve applied for it?

Now, the processing time would depend on your home university library. FYI, for the University of Leeds, it can take as fast as a few minutes if you’re lucky :p But I would say that it would usually take a few days, so give it some time. It’s also probably best just to apply as early as possible, just to be on the safe side.

Once your library has approved your application to join the SCONUL Access Scheme, you’ll receive an approval email.

SCONUL Access Scheme Approval

That email will be your ticket to enter other UK universities within the scheme. It would also be helpful to print a copy or two and keep it with you, especially when you travel.

Once you have the approval email, you can then bring it along to any other institution within the scheme to apply for access. Don’t forget to bring along your Student ID card from your home university

Each new institution may have a different process of registration. Therefore, it’d be best to check with them in advance if you need to bring anything else.

For instance, at the University of Leeds, as long as you have the approval email and your student ID card, we can proceed with your registration. But most of the time, you would most probably have to fill out another registration form at each university. This is so that they have your information in their record (especially if you’d be borrowing books, etc).

Once the new institution processed your registration, you’ll be all set!

You’re all set to go!

University of Manchester SCONUL Access Scheme card.

Tada! I have a library card for the University of Manchester. This card will allow me to enter the libraries at the University of Manchester to study. As I am a postgraduate student, I am also eligible to borrow up to 4 books at a time. This would be helpful if I need a book that Manchester has but Huddersfield does not (which actually happened last term).

But the fun doesn’t end here.

I can still use the same approval email and go to other universities (i.e. Nottingham, etc) and apply for access. The approval email is you own introduction into the SCONUL Access scheme, so you don’t have to apply multiple times to go to different universities.

So essentially, once you have the approval email, you can use save it and use it whenever you need it. You might go on a week-long vacation over Easter break to visit a friend, and realize that you need to use a library. Well, if the university there is on your approved list of institutions, you’ll be able to use them.

The SCONUL Access Scheme is amazing, but remember!

It is a privilege to be able to use the SCONUL Access Scheme and have access to other university libraries. It is not a right, therefore, you must use it wisely. That means, you have to respect the terms and conditions set forth by the university that you are visiting.

Some universities, like the University of Leeds, may set a limit to when you can enter the library. For instance, at the University of Leeds, SCONUL members cannot access the library during exam weeks. This is because they want to cater to their own students and staff during the peak period. 

They may also have other rules set out for external members (i.e. SCONUL users), such as the number of books you can borrow, etc. 

It is also important to remember that you are bringing the name of your own home university whenever you visit a different university. So, be sure to act responsibly and not tarnish the good name of your university. After all, you don’t want to have the privileges revoked, right?

Enjoy your SCONUL Access, and may it help you in your studies!

If you have any questions regarding the SCONUL Access Scheme, you may visit their FAQ page on their website. You can also contact the library staffs at your university library, as they can give you more information about it. After all, each university library has their own services that they offer to students and staff. So why not talk to them to learn more about what you can utilize?

Hopefully this post has been useful for you. If you have any questions, feel free to comment down below and I’ll try to answer (if I can!). I hope that you would be able to make use of the SCONUL Access in your studies in one way or another. Or, at least, you get to go on a university library tour around the UK. I know I plan on doing so one day :p

Until next time – stay awesome!

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