Universities must form tighter partnerships with business, the Confederation of British Industry warned this week.
Pressure from industry to improve the business acumen of graduate recruits and the rise of the in-house company "university" will make closer cooperation inevitable, the CBI was told at its national conference in Harrogate.
CBI president Colin Marshall appealed to delegates not to "allow poor education to become Britain's Achilles' heel". The confederation announced plans for a new human resources performance benchmark, which will assess a firm's commitment to training, research and development. Greater partnership between business and universities is also expected to be a key issue in the CBI's late submission to Sir Ron Dearing's higher education inquiry next week.
Unipart U, the in-house "university" for staff at car-parts company Unipart, was heralded at the conference as an example of best practice. The appeals for closer business links come just after it emerged that British Aerospace is to offer university-validated degree courses to its staff through a new, distance learning "virtual university".
Employment policy committee chairman Brian Rigby said: "It is an inevitable part of the move towards lifetime learning and skills updating that large businesses such as British Aerospace want to offer their employees greater access to higher education."
Concern with higher education focused on the lack of "life skills". Graduates tend to lack basic communication, leadership and IT skills", Mr Rigby said. The perceived declining quality of graduate recruits will also be an issue in the CBI's submission to Dearing.