Cash carrot for academy to meet industrial needs

Lord Mandelson announces incentives to encourage rapid responses to ‘fill niche gaps in the skills base’. Phil Baty reports

October 20, 2009

The Government will introduce financial incentives to encourage universities to provide the strategic skills that the British economy will need in the future.

Lord Mandelson, the First Secretary, said in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry on 20 October that the Government’s forthcoming Higher Education Framework will “create a system more capable of responding quickly with funding to fill niche gaps in the skills base in critical industries such as the civil nuclear supply chain or low-carbon technologies”.

He added: “That will mean clear incentives to increase and improve the provision of science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses, where UK employers continue to report shortages. We already do this implicitly through differential funding and vulnerable-subject systems, but we will go further.”

Speaking at the CBI’s higher education summit in London, he said that business must provide more cash for a higher education system that will become “more vocational and more targeted on generating economic impact than ever before”.

“Business has to get better at communicating its needs, so that the system can respond and our universities are not left to make educated guesses about what business wants,” he said. “Business can and should also contribute more financially to a system that will be more vocational and more targeted on generating economic impact than ever before.

“But that relationship should clearly be collaborative, mutually beneficial and preferably long term. It is not something for nothing. It’s greater business engagement and support in return for a system that produces the right skills at the right time and which supports product and concept development.”

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