This follows a similar case last year, in which housing association Gentoo Group also tried to charge a fee, which was dropped after complaints.
The Newcastle University fee was attached to a tender for a new graphic design framework, which was advertised on the University’s tendering platform.
Kevin Robson, head of projects at Wonder Stuff Studio, who saw the tender advertised, says it ‘completely obscures the real value of design, and turns the process of commissioning design into a pay-to-enter competition.’
Robson adds, ‘It’s obviously a nominal fee, intended to act as a barrier to reduce the number of applications. However this simply singles out the smaller agencies who can’t afford the time and money required to tender, and it is not of any benefit to Newcastle University in finding the agency that’s the best fit for them.’
After being contacted by Design Week, Newcastle University said it would drop the fee, saying ‘We have decided not to charge the £100 fee and have amended this on the tender portal. We will reimburse the two companies who have paid the fee already.’
Commenting on the earlier Gentoo Group case Design Business Association expert Simon May said, ‘There is nothing in law to say you can’t do this and it may be that they’re just screening people out.’
May said the the Gentoo Group tender was not illegal, but suggested the company should seek legal advice ‘simply to work out what their position is as the tender could cause problems and be detrimental for the brand,’ as these kind of tenders are ‘such a rare occurrence’.