Funding council strategy to reward partnership-with-industry initiatives

Working students and employers will steer sector's agenda, says Hefce head. Rebecca Attwood reports

February 28, 2008

The 18 to 21-year-old school-leaver is no longer "in the driving seat" of the higher education sector, the head of the funding council said as he confirmed the recipients of nearly £50 million allocated to develop degree courses in partnership with businesses.

Tomorrow's student will juggle full-time work, family responsibilities and higher education, and will demand more personalised ways of learning, David Eastwood, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, suggested last week.

Speaking at the triennial Conference of Northern Universities, he said the sector was witnessing the birth of "a new political economy", with student fees and employers contributing a greater proportion of the sector's funding.

The Government is pushing universities to work with employers to design new degree courses for their workforce, and wants 10,000 students in 2009-10 to be on courses co-funded by employers, with a further 20,000 in 2010-11.

The Government's challenge of persuading employers of the "mutual benefits" that come from co-funding courses would not be easy, he stressed.

Awards for ‘employer engagement’
Institution Strategic development fundingFunding period
Thames Valley£6,495,6662008-09 to 2010-11
De Montfort£4,379,0002007-08 to 2009-10
Derby£4,265,0002007-08 to 2010-11
Coventry£3,542,0002006-07 to 2008-09
Salford£2,990,0002007-08 to 2008-09
London South Bank£2,983,2902007-08 to 2009-10
Bradford£2,844,5082007-08 to 2010-11
Hertfordshire£2,205,0002006-07 to 2008-09
Southampton£1,994,7001*2008-09 to 2011-12
Leicester£1,645,6602008-09 to 2010-11
Aston£1,598,3642007-08 to 2008-09
Chester£996,6692007-08 to 2008-09
Kingston£781,9932007-08 to 2009-10
Edge Hill£350,0002007-08 to 2008-09
University of the Arts London£333,2492007-08 to 2008-09
Harper Adams Univ College£294,7762007-08 to 2008-09
Bedfordshire£248,0002007-08 to 2008-09
Totals£48,796,8562** 2007-11
*Includes a repayable loan of £1.2 million **Includes regional ‘Pathfinder’ funding of £10.4 million

"I know that there are some - a minority, perhaps - who think that it is not the business of higher education to engage with business," he said. "But when one sees what can be done in practice, it is clear that such engagement is not only compatible with our mission as a sector, it is a logical extension of so much of what we do."

He highlighted the growing number of universities and colleges that are developing innovative approaches to management and leadership training drawing on experiences in the workplace. There was a growing demand for courses that give credit towards a degree for "prior or experiential learning", and a growing recognition that "what employees learn in the workplace, formally and informally, can be a part of what is accredited towards their degrees".

Professor Eastwood announced the creation of a new central port of call for all businesses in the country looking for a university to help them meet their training needs. The University of York has won £400,000 in Hefce funding to develop the UK Universities Continuing Professional Development Network.

Hefce will provide at least £105 million in funding to universities and colleges over the next three years to support the development of courses funded jointly by students, the state and employers.

Hefce board papers released recently confirm strategic development grants totalling almost £50 million, designed to help universities develop co-funded courses (see table).

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