Relx’s Elsevier unit publishes almost half-a-million academic articles every year and UC was happy to keep paying its hefty subscription fee so it could continue to access them.
But for the same price, it also wanted Relx to distribute its authors’ work to other researchers for free, something universities would normally have to pay extra for.
Analysts said it was “no wonder” the publisher refused to give in to the demands given that it would have undermined its business model.
The number crunchers don’t expect the cancellation to affect this year’s numbers too much, but the stock fell 5.6% to 1,631p on concerns over the possible longer-term fall-out.
“How much does this encourage other universities to take a similar line?” asked City broker Liberum in a research note.
“That would presumably be the issue for Elsevier as UC's very open move could encourage others to follow suit.”