Lambert: I'm no stooge

March 21, 2003

The man commissioned by the Treasury to look at the links between higher education and business has denied claims that his report will be used to force universities to reform their governance.

Richard Lambert, former editor of the Financial Times , will ask business and industry leaders what they think of university management and governance as part of the report, due in October.

But Mr Lambert told The THES that this did not mean he had been told by the Treasury to come down heavily on higher education management.

He said: "That's not my mission. I don't have any starting points. I am an independent person. It's up to me what I look at. We are a small team with a limited amount of time. We're not going to be able to rewrite the governance structure of the UK university system."

Mr Lambert's original brief, as set out in last November's pre-budget report, was to look at five areas of business-university collaboration from industry's viewpoint.

But a sixth term has since been added that asks for business's views on "the present governance, management and leadership arrangements of higher education institutions and their effectiveness in supporting good research and knowledge transfer and providing relevant skills for the economy".

The change led to newspaper reports that chancellor Gordon Brown wanted to use the report to force universities to agree to sweeping management reforms to attract more industry funding.

Mr Lambert told The THES that the Treasury's focus was squarely on increasing productivity and that the report would focus on examples of good practice and the lessons that could be learnt from them.

One of the questions he is asking industry is: "Do the present mechanisms for priority setting, decision-making and funding in the university sector help or hinder business-university collaboration? What changes might encourage collaboration?"

Giving evidence this week to the House of Commons' education and skills select committee, Mr Lambert said that both universities and businesses were responsible for barriers that prevented greater collaboration. He suggested that industry did not reach out far enough to the university sector.

The other terms of reference for the review are:

* Identify the benefits and barriers to successful collaboration

* Examine the role of regional development agencies in knowledge transfer

* Find UK and international best practice

* Suggest how industry can best communicate its needs to universities

* Explore the effects of research and development tax credits.

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