Universities and colleges must be prepared to act as "regional powerhouses" directly involved in working with the new University for Industry, Kim Howells, the lifelong learning minister, said this week, writes Tony Tysome.
They should expect to help lay the foundations for regional development agencies, which will have a strategic planning role in the running of the UFI, he said.
Dr Howells's comments to The THES, after addressing a Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals conference on the UFI on Monday, suggest the government is expecting universities to have a say in defining how both the UFI and the RDAs will operate.
"We are very keen that universities should view themselves more than they do at present as very important resources for the region they serve. We see the UFI as one means of achieving that," he said.
The principal function of the UFI will be to offer prospective students information and guidance on where to find the right basic skills, education, vocational and professional training courses for them.
In return for a subscription fee, it will offer to "badge" appropriate courses for institutions, in an effort to widen access to post-school education and training.
Diana Warwick, CVCP chief executive, announced at the conference the appointment of a new CVCP task force to respond to identify ways in which universities could contribute to the UFI's objectives. Roderick Floud, vice-chancellor of London Guildhall University who is to chair the task force, said: "Many universities run shorter courses or modules for which there is no central clearing-house to alert potential students to the opportunities they offer. That is where the UFI could help."
Regional developments, page 4