How to write a specification

Write a clear description of your requirement when requesting quotes for purchases below £50,000.

What is a specification?

A specification is a description of your requirement for the purpose of obtaining a quote from a supplier, and should be submitted as part of your Invitation to Quote (see “3 Quotes” guidance for procedures and ITQ template).

For further information on writing a specification or requesting quotes from suppliers, please see information on obtaining quotes on Scottish Government’s Procurement Journey website.

Tips for specifications:

  • The level of detail should be proportionate to the purchase value and complexity of the requirement
  • Use your knowledge of the market, or conduct market research, to determine which suppliers are able to meet your requirement
  • When you submit your specification to a supplier by email, make it clear that you are submitting an Invitation to Quote (ITQ).
  • Please contact the Procurement Office before writing a specification for a requirement £50,000 or above

What should be included in a specification?

In order to get an accurate quote, make sure your specifications include all the relevant information. This could include descriptions of:

  • Price format
  • For Services: day/hourly/all-inclusive rates (total cost)
  • Quality
  • Quantity
  • Required supplier experience
  • Size / dimensions
  • Performance
  • Installation / maintenance / servicing / warranty
  • Delivery (you should generally request “delivery inclusive” or “Delivery Duty Paid”)
  • Features / options
  • Technical requirements
  • Integration with existing goods / services
  • Software and training
  • Health and Safety
  • Sustainability considerations
  • Compliance with the University's Terms & Conditions 

Important considerations

When you purchase outwith a current University contract, you will have more to consider in order to mitigate risk. Some examples should include:

  • Will cost be inclusive of delivery, maintenance, installation, upgrades, etc.?
  • VAT inclusive?
  • International purchase? If so, have I considered which party will be responsible “incoterms” e.g., potential import taxes or customs fees?
  • Will this item fit through the door or will the floor support it?
  • Are there any additional regulatory requirements, e.g., Health and Safety legislation?
  • Are there any relevant University Policies that I need to be aware of?  e.g., request for compliance with computing visitor registration policy for service providers?
  • Is sustainability a relevant consideration? Examples:
    • Are poor working conditions, low pay or environmental issues an issue in the supply chain?
    • Is there an appropriate way to address this in my specification, e.g. to require a Fair Trade label or equivalent?
    • Is there any way to conduct this purchase in a way that contributes to the University’s goal to reach net zero carbon use by 2040, e.g., to require higher energy efficiency in equipment?

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.