Guide to buying

Using the wrong route to buy things at works cost our University time and money. Make sure you're buying things the right way.

Buying guide

Type of purchase Purchase method Notes 
Advertising Contact Ellie Hicks, CER  

All travel incl. flights, rail, car hire, transfers, accommodations and visas

Diversity Travel
Key Travel 
There are no exceptions 
Conference/training - external courses Unit 4 purchase order If above £750 
Conference/training - external courses  University purchasing card If below £750 
Hospitality Lead staff member pays for hospitality and reclaims using the Unit 4 online expenses module Details of all attendees must be recorded on the hospitality form
Hospitality at Wivenhoe House  Use online booking form and pay using purchasing card or Unit 4 purchase order Complete the hospitality form listing all attendees
Mileage and subsistence Complete Unit 4 online expenses module These are the only personal expenses that should be reclaimed
Consultancy Contact Central Procurement Unit In the first instance
Temporary resourcing Contact Central Procurement Unit In the first instance
Professional fees and subscriptions Not permissible Personal subscriptions or professional body memberships
Consumables and sundries Unit 4 purchase order
Over £750
Consumables and sundries
University purchasing card
Below £750
Stationery Office Team via Unit 4 punchout Office Team
Furniture Contact Central Procurement Unit In the first instance
Books, publications and printed/digital journal subscriptions Unit 4 purchase order or Library own ordering system Over £750
Any annual maintenance contracts Contact Central Procurement Unit
In the first instance
Catering Essex Food On site delivery
IT equipment Contact IT Services No exception 
Mobile phones Contact IT Services Central contract with Vodafone
Multi-functional devices Contact IT Services
No exception
Printing Contact CDS In the first instance 
Ultra-low value items (under £30) Petty cash The use of petty cash is not encouraged but acknowledged as an operational necessity in some areas
Participant incentives for experiments, testing and questionnaires Pre-arranged petty case advance or pre-purchased vouchers A notional amount may be given as an incentive to participate
Day-to-day purchases University purchase order Item value over £750
Amazon - general goods Via Unit 4 punchout No exceptions
Amazon - gift cards Direct via Amazon Contact Central Procurement Unit to join card purchasing scheme
Legal services Eversheds Contact Central Procurement Unit for contacts


The University is contracted against a National Framework for the purchasing of stationery. Place your order online via a purchasing card.

Payment cards

There are three main types of cards available:

Fuel cards

Please contact Estate Management Services Helpdesk - ext. 2959

Purchasing cards

  • Departmental purchases such as stationery, books, travel, small items of equipment, software, use via mail order and internet suppliers.
  • ISS, Estate Management Services and Commercial Services may in addition use cards to purchase computer and telecoms equipment, building materials, cleaning equipment and catering supplies.
  • Any other category of items by prior written permission of the Director of Finance.

NOTE that cards may be declined by retailers at point of use if they are used for non-approved purchase categories specified by the Director of Finance.

Corporate credit cards

The corporate credit card is intended for the following types of personal expense incurred solely for University business purposes that would normally be reclaimed through expense claims:

  • Personal travel and accommodation expenses incurred whilst on University business. Any other category of items by prior written permission of the Director of Finance.
  • All other forms of personal expenses incurred will be reimbursed through the expenses system.

NOTE: For the full detail of the rules and limitations regarding the different types of cards see Financial Procedure Note FPN 10 (.pdf, Essex users only)

All enquiries regarding the issuing and use of payment cards please send an email to

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Contact us
Central Procurement Unit