3 Quotes - non-contracted goods and services

Get 3 quotes prior to purchase if your requirement is below £50,000 and not available via a current contract.

Obtaining and comparing quotes for procurements below £50,000 between suppliers demonstrates value for money and ensures that the University’s legal duties are met. Quotes are formal statements from suppliers setting a fixed price offer. Value for money is defined by the Scottish government as an "informed balance between cost, quality and sustainability" considerations. 

Follow these steps:

  1. Obtain 3 quotations from separate suppliers who you think can meet your requirement. These should be requested by email, which is called an “Invitation to Quote” (ITQ)

  • For less complex, lower value requirements, request quotes by email and record your purchase justification with a stand alone 3 Quotes template
  • For complex or higher value requirements, use this combined ITQ/3 Quotes template to formally request and record quotes from suppliers
  • Formal ITQs should include a clear description of your requirements, called a specification, which must be the same for each supplier
  1. Select the winning quote, record quotes and your justification via the 3 Quotes template. Follow local procedures to raise a purchase order

  2. Retain records locally following College or School document retention procedures. Relevant documentation may include:

  • Copy of specification and ITQ
  • Copy of quotes received
  • Copy of purchase order
  • Copy of decision justification and relevant correspondence (higher value)

(These records will be important where an audit is required for external funding)

Please note that some Colleges and Schools offer locally based procurement support for purchases below £50,000, listed here (if applicable to you, please contact before obtaining quotes).

Please contact the Procurement Office if you have any queries about obtaining quotes from suppliers. For additional guidance, please see information on obtaining quotes on Procurement Journey Route 1 (Scottish Government guidance for low value procurement).

Rules for '3 Quotes' process

  • 3 quotes are a minimum, more can be obtained
  • You are NOT obligated to select the cheapest quote. In all cases, please record decision justification and how it represents value for money
  • If you can’t obtain 3 quotes, record your attempts or justification for having fewer than 3
  • Efforts to obtain and record quotes should be proportional to the value of your requirement 
  • Justifications may be concise, however, the higher the value, the more robust the justification must be
  • Be aware that external funding requirements may impose additional conditions. See Research Grants Office website for a list of funders' T&Cs 
  • If engaging personal service providers (e.g. certain consultants, project managers or training providers, etc.), please see info on how recent HMRC IR35 tax changes may affect these appointments.

Advice for '3 Quotes'

  • Ensure you are comparing like-for-like costs across quotes. For instance, some quotes are VAT inclusive, while others are not.
  • Ensure that relevant costs are accounted for in your ITQ,  e.g., shipping costs, insurance costs, service/warranty
  • As a default, you should request compliance with the University's standard Terms and Conditions for your purchase area
  • Be aware of terms that are not in the best interests of the University, e.g. automatic renewals of subscription services
  • If procuring consultancy type services or personnel, please see our Guidance on procuring Consultants and other 'Personal Service Providers' and ensure that you follow any central or local HR policies where people are being engaged

Make sure you request Quotes and not Estimates in your ITQ. What’s the difference?

Quote is an official costing/price given by a supplier. Buyers hold suppliers to prices and terms given in quotes for the period for which they are valid.

Estimates provide an approximate costing only, which can be useful for budgeting purposes. However, suppliers are not obligated to hold themselves to these prices or terms.

Purchases under £1,000

Formal quotes are not required for purchases below £1000. However, budget holders should retain some evidence of  value for money, e.g., through a screenshot of price comparison.


Please Note:

If you estimate that your purchase will be above £50,000, you must contact the Procurement Office before proceeding. See the University of Edinburgh procurement chart for thresholds and typical timescales.