Capital assets waste potential

February 14, 1997

What does tertiary education do for London? Not a lot, says one report. In another of our series of regional focuses, THES reporters look for a sense of community within the M25 area.

LONDON's higher education institutions and businesses must dramatically improve their formal collaborative links if the capital is to retain its international competitive edge, according to a new report.

The Central London Training and Enterprise Council (CENTEC) says that institutions are failing to fulfill their potential within the local economy while businesses appear woefully ignorant of the training and research services offered by the capital's institutions.

CENTEC's draft preliminary report, titled Higher Education and the London Economy: A Study of Linkages, shows that all but one of the 35 institutions surveyed provided some training for companies. But feedback showed that this training was generally provided to companies by commercial outfits - not higher education institutions.

CENTEC put this anomaly down to lack of communication between companies and institutions. Only 20 per cent of the 82 companies surveyed said that they commissioned institutions to do research.

John Earnshaw, CENTEC's director of education and individual development, said: "We know that many links exist, but the report shows that these need to be formalised and developed. Many companies are simply not aware of what institutions can offer in the way of company training, and are more likely to use a commercial training provider.

"TECs, institutions and businesses all have a responsibility for strengthening the London economy and this report shows that, although we have put in place some measures to help reach this goal, we need to do much more if London is to remain competitive within the global market."

The report estimates that London HE institutions contribute between Pounds 3.5 and Pounds 4 billion annually to the local economy. The sector is estimate to employ a total of 33,500 people.

The report's key recommendations call on institutions to back up their academic strengths with effective marketing based on the needs of potential customers. They are also urged to learn from regional best practice, using this as a benchmark. It is suggested that they employ a business liaison team or officer to help develop education/business links.

Businesses are urged to develop sector by sector by using existing business groupings to work with higher education in order to specify their needs. Suggested possible intermediaries include the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the London Region CBI.

The TEC aims to help put institutions and business in touch. It also suggests the development of a database listing the services and facilities offered by institutions.

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