Non-executive directorships and paid sabbaticals are among a package of incentives companies could put together for university lecturers to help higher education produce the kinds of graduates British business needs in the future, according to the government-sponsored Employers for Higher Education forum.
Many of the 300 employers represented by the forum have run successful workplace schemes for graduates that have directly enhanced company profitability. In a report to Sir Ron Dearing's review of higher education, they have now suggested introducing academics with relevant expertise into the upper echelons of their companies in the hope that this will help their profit margins and bolster university understanding of employer needs..
Val Butcher, executive officer of the forum, said: "The lecturers could be experts in computers, business, or even esoteric subjects like ethics."
Another incentive could be paid sabbaticals for industrial experience, financed by a consortium of companies. But such a measure would need to be introduced in tandem with wider pro-industry developments within the university sector since "in the present culture, such experience would not assist, indeed may damage, an academic's career".
One catalyst for change would be the establishment of a UK campus-based centre for "organisational learning" akin to the institution at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.
The forum has also told the Dearing review that there needs to be "a greater degree of professionalism in university teaching". This means that students and employers, and not just academics, should be given a greater say in how the curriculum is developed.