Doing Business with Harvard


Harvard University is large, diverse and highly decentralized. It is comprised of Harvard College, twelve graduate schools, several research institutes and museums, along with many supporting administrative departments, each managed individually. For more information about the University’s structure, see:


The University is a regional entity with campuses and facilities in Cambridge, Boston, Watertown, and other greater Boston communities. It is the second largest employer in the Boston metropolitan region and procures more than $1.5 billion in goods and services annually, of which more than one third is from businesses located in Cambridge, Boston, Watertown and Somerville. Through local purchasing the University fosters economic growth in its host communities.

What is the nature of Harvard’s Purchasing Policy?


Harvard’s purchasing is decentralized. Individual faculty and staff in the various schools and departments across the University determine business needs, place orders, and authorize the payment of invoices. Centrally, the Office of Strategic Procurement facilitates University efforts to maximize value and create a focus for the University to consolidate and leverage purchasing power.

Strategic Procurement creates commodity-based buying programs for the University, establishes guidance for purchasers, maintains vendor reference material, and serves as an information clearinghouse for Harvard’s purchasing community. To encourage purchasing from local and from minority- and women-owned businesses, Strategic Procurement represents Harvard with various local and regional agencies, including the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council.

How does Harvard work with vendors?

There are two avenues through which vendors can work with Harvard:

  1. Strategic procurement initiatives and vendor partnerships with the Office of Strategic Procurement

Strategic procurement initiatives and vendor partnerships: Strategic Procurement establishes and manages vendor partnerships and other commercial agreements in selected, strategic commodity areas to support the needs of the Harvard community. The goals of these programs are to:

  1. Leverage the University’s buying power to reduce everyone’s prices
  2. Consolidate the vendor base and reduce transaction processing costs
  3. Provide higher levels of service and other value-added features
  4. Make purchasing of products quick, convenient, and trouble free

For these commodities, Strategic Procurement actively negotiates and establishes vendor partnerships through an extensive sourcing process and strongly recommends that Harvard employees use these vendors. Vendors can participate in these strategic initiatives either directly or through relationships with prime vendors. Suppliers that are selected for Harvard vendor partners are strongly encouraged to either partner or subcontract with small, minority owned or women-owned businesses. In addition, Harvard strongly encourages its vendor partners to employ residents of Harvard’s host communities.

2. Relationship-based business with a specific school or department

Relationship-based business: For goods and services not covered by a Strategic Procurement Initiative or Vendor Partnership, the decentralized nature of Harvard’s purchasing makes it the vendor’s responsibility to market its products to the appropriate individuals within Harvard’s schools and departments. The vendor should determine whether its products or services support (directly or indirectly) the University’s mission of teaching and research and then identify the proper avenue for locating and engaging the individuals within the University responsible for purchasing those products or services.

For example, if a vendor’s product supports instruction or research in a particular field, prospective Harvard customers might learn about a vendor’s products from trade shows, trade publications, advertising, and/or direct contact from the vendor, or by reference from a personal contact within their specialized community.

Because Harvard is a decentralized institution, there is no single place where requisitions for goods or services are processed. Likewise, there is no centralized registration and approval process for most commodities. Vendors should recognize that often they will need to establish marketing and sales programs to independently reach each potential Harvard customer.

Working with Harvard

Many Harvard employees have purchasing responsibilities; these employees are expected to responsibly make procurement decisions based on the best interests of the University. Harvard faculty and staff are expected to display fairness and integrity during the course of the acquisition of goods and services; likewise, Harvard anticipates its vendors will support the Harvard community by promoting ethical and legal trade practices. In addition, Harvard purchasers are expected to maintain auditable records that comply with applicable government regulations.

What is the invoicing and payment process?

Vendor selection, ordering of goods and services, and invoice approval are handled by the University business units/departments responsible for the purchase. Generally, invoices should be directed to the vendor’s designated contact in the schools or departments where the transaction occurred. Typical University-wide payment terms are "net 30 days", although Harvard will accept terms offering early payment discounts when possible.

I am a minority, women-owned or small business, how do I start doing business with Harvard?

Harvard has a Supplier Diversity and Small Business Program, supported by Strategic Procurement. To strengthen existing relationships and promote new ones, Strategic Procurement works various organizations, including the following:


As a minority- or women-owned business, and small businesses an important step to gain access to Harvard’s markets is to register your business with one or more of the organizations or entities listed above.

As a local supplier, how do I start doing business with Harvard?

Get familiar with Harvard’s Strategic Procurement web page and know which organizations and lists are provided as references to the internal purchasing community. Become a member of or get listed with those organizations.

  1. Get to know Harvard and its various schools and departments
  2. Explore the Harvard website:
  3. Build relationships with individuals
  4. If you have contacts at different schools or departments, ask for referrals

How do I get to Harvard?

Harvard’s campuses are located in dense urban areas.

On-campus parking is available, but is reserved for faculty, staff and students. Harvard strongly encourages campus visitors to take public transit. However, metered on-street parking and private garages are alternatives.

For campus maps and directions to campus, please consult

How do I contact the University?

Strategic Procurement recommends that vendors make appointments in advance of sales calls. To research contacts within the schools or departments, vendors should consult the Harvard University’s on-line telephone directory.