Suppliers Interested in Doing Business with Columbia

For suppliers interested in doing business with Columbia University, there are several points to be aware of:

The University orders goods and services from a variety of suppliers. There are 5 types of suppliers that the University relies upon to provide goods and services, as illustrated and described below.

infographic of Columbia University supplier types

Supplier Types

To learn more about the definitions, requirements, and purchasing procedures for each supplier type, click on a title below, or click on the "expand all" button.


Strategic Supplier

Strategic – Preferred Supplier (UWPA) long term cooperative business partner committed to leveraging the strategic and operational capabilities of the university and supplier to achieve significant operational goals to mutual benefit. This type of supplier is a more enhanced UWPA with relationship further refined than standard UWPA with clearer expectations and service levels negotiated.

Meets the following qualifications:

  • Validation by Vendor Maintenance
  • Market Analysis qualified
  • Established based on specified transaction and spend volumes
  • Negotiated and/or RFP conducted by Purchasing
  • Long term commitment (5 year min) with contract established and managed by Purchasing
  • Auto sourced PO/ordering process is utilized with no bidding, negotiation or departmental justification required for individual transactions
  • Integrates with University Systems
  • Provides on going resources to support operations
  • 3 years past audited financials
  • University business must be less than 25% of total supplier revenue base

Preferred Supplier* (UwPA & Task Order)  *includes State/Federal Contracts

UWPA Supplier

UWPA supplier is a supplier that has been awarded a University Wide Purchasing Agreement by Central purchasing to provide products and/or services at negotiated rates/prices and leverages University’s purchasing spend.

Vendor must be validated by VM, market analysis qualified, limited suppliers awarded UWPA in commodity groups, established based on specified transaction and spend volumes, negotiated and/or bid by Purchasing, auto sourced PO mechanism is utilized for UWPA’s without bidding, negotiation or departmental justification required for individual transactions.

UWPA’s are awarded once Purchasing has identified opportunity to leverage University spend on specified goods and/or services across multiple departments. Supplier is identified through internal utilization and external resources and determination is made to either perform negotiations with existing supplier based in unique circumstances of goods/services or through RFP based on availability of goods/services in marketplace and increased opportunity to leverage university spend.


Task Order Supplier

Task Order supplier is a supplier that has been awarded a task Order Agreement by Central Purchasing and Facilities to supply products and/or services at negotiated rates and/or unit pricing.

Task Orders are qualified by Vendor Sub-Committee, Validated by VM, market analysis qualified, supplier has history of successful completion of projects at the Columbia, negotiations and/or bid conducted by Purchasing with Task Order Contract managed by Purchasing.

No bidding, negotiation or departmental justification is required when utilizing Task Order supplier for  individual transactions up to $30,000  for single trade, single transaction up to $70,000 for general contractor using multiple trades and up to $100,000 for term agreements (Architects, engineers etc.)

Task Orders are awarded through following process: Purchasing and/or Facilities identifies opportunity to partner with qualified vendors on specified services that would reduce liability, management costs and allow for efficient responsiveness to university requirements for services.

Purchasing will work with the Facilities Qualification Committee with respect to university stakeholders recommendations for potential Task Order candidates to which an RFP will be distributed. Supplier must be qualified, proven record of success at university on other previous projects, supplier must be competitive in their work category and must meet university quality standards.

Purchasing will make determination to either perform negotiations with existing supplier based on past performance and competitive pricing with the work category or perform RFP based on service category within qualified vendor pool for areas of work not adequately represented by existing Task Order vendors.

Task Order awards result in Purchasing and Supplier executing a Task Order contract with an established rate structure for time, material and/or unit pricing. All work for Task Order suppliers must be processed through Facilities or with its consent.

Master Agreements Supplier

Master Agreements Suppliers are approved suppliers that have a negotiated master agreement in place with Purchasing with agreed terms and conditions for the supply of specified services.

These suppliers are validated by VM, master contract terms established and negotiated by Purchasing, standard SOW template may be used to engage these suppliers but are not treated as a UWPA and are set up based on use by single or small number of departments for limited set of services.

Master Agreement vendors use does not require bidding or departmental justification to engage but must be consistent with prices, terms and scope identified in the contract.

Department Select Agreements (DSA’s) Supplier

Department Select Agreements (DSA’s) suppliers are contracted via Purchasing to supply specified goods and/or services at the request of a single or small number of departments.

Requirements include:

  • Supplier must be vetted by VM, agreement negotiated by Purchasing when no UWPA is in place and transaction and dollar value justify it, standardized format used to engage the vendor by auto sourced PO without need for bidding, negotiation nor departmental justification.
  • Departments are responsible for ensuring that pricing and terms of service are in accordance with the negotiated DSA.

Validated (includes Cooperatives & GPO’s) Supplier

Approved Suppliers are those suppliers from whom specific departments wish to receive goods and services on an ad hoc basis. These suppliers are not preferred but have undergone a supplier verification process and been approved as legitimate suppliers.

  • The process to become an approved supplier must be initiated by a requesting department or school. Many sourcing decisions are made at the school and department level.
  • There are hundreds of decision makers across these decentralized departments and suppliers need to seek out opportunities with these decision makers to gain visibility.
  • Once a supplier has been awarded business by a schools or department, providing excellent service, high-quality goods, competitive pricing and effective compliance support are often the best strategies for getting known by other departments and considered for other opportunities. To clarify, an approved supplier is not a prefererd supplier.
  • All procurement requirements associated with non UWPA vendors apply.


About Sourcing at Columbia University

Sourcing at both the central Purchasing and school/department level is done on University and department determined schedules, and reflect University strategic priorities. Some sourcing schedules are a matter of weeks while other sourcing activities can involve a process lasting much longer.

The authority to enter into and sign goods and services contracts on behalf of the University is limited to specific University personnel who have been authorized by the University Trustees or a specific written delegation. In most cases, the Office of Procurement Services maintains the authority to execute goods and services contracts on behalf of the University. Agreements where the University is performing research, providing services or goods for third parties are not handled by Procurement Services.

University employees who have been granted signature authority by the Trustees or a written delegation receive confirmation of that authority each year, and only employees with authority to sign contracts on behalf of the University may enter into or sign contracts. Any questions on whether a document or other proposed arrangement is considered a contract and questions on signature authority should be directed to the Purchasing Office. See Policy >>


For more information about the range of goods and services that the University sources, please refer to the Purchasing website