'Academic hub' to focus on creative skills training

Plan proposes 5,000 apprenticeships and better links with industry and schools. John Gill reports

February 28, 2008

The Government has unveiled a masterplan for developing the UK's creative industries, outlining the central role of universities in the sector's future.

The strategy paper, which says that industries such as the arts and media are crucial to economic prosperity, includes plans for 5,000 new apprenticeships each year by 2013.

It adds that a new "academic hub" will support collaboration between higher and further education and schools, to improve creative skills training for people aged from 14 to 25 years.

The aim is for arts universities, such as the University of the Arts London, to share curriculum content, industry contacts and facilities with schools, as well as mentoring students and participating in exchanges for staff, leaders and governors.

The paper also announces a new knowledge transfer network, to be headed by the Technology Strategy Board, which will aim to improve third-stream activities between universities, research and technology organisations and the creative industries.

"Talent is the lifeblood of the creative industries," says the report. "If the UK is to retain a world-leading creative sector, it will be through winning the race to develop our creative skills ... Our universities and colleges will (provide) the professional development to follow that career by ensuring they offer the best creative courses in the world."

The report describes universities as "shaping our creative industries' engagement with technology" but adds that there is "an appetite for more".

Citing the Leitch review of skills, it says that there is a need for a "greater emphasis on business and entrepreneurial skills" to foster enterprise.

With this in mind, the Government has asked the Art, Design and Media Subject Centre, based at the University of Brighton, to carry out research into employer engagement in the relevant higher education subjects.

This will identify gaps in provision "based on employer needs" according to the report, and help to develop stronger links between institutions and the creative industries.

There are plans for five new centres for excellence in creative skills such as computer game design, which will be developed in collaboration with universities.

The report also asserts the need to better support creative "clusters" such as the computer-game industry networks in the North East of England to which the universities of Sunderland and Teesside are crucial contributors.

Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, said the partnership between higher education and the creative industries must be "adequately supported and incentivised".

She added: "With greater support for practice-based research and incentives for university-business collaboration, UK creative industries will continue to be successful."

David Baker, principal of University College Plymouth and chairman of GuildHE, welcomed the report, saying that GuildHE members would support the strategy.

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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