UNIVERSITIES have a pivotal role to play in local and regional economies as part of a proposed compact with society over the next two decades.
Dearing wants to make higher education more responsive to the requirements of employers and regional economies. Its recommendations are designed to tie in with Government proposals to create regional chambers and development agencies.
Dearing wants patchy regional involvement replaced with "active and systematic engagement".
Local employers have told the committee that they see their links with institutions becoming more focused and exclusive. The report links this with lifelong learning: "There will be an increasing opportunity and need for institutions to provide programmes that respond to specifically local social and economic needs for lifelong learning".
Dearing is particularly keen that small and medium sized businesses tap into higher education and recommends that institutions examine ways of providing easy and coordinated access to information about local services (Rec 38).
Institutions must play a larger, more active role in regional and local administration. The report recommends that institutions should be represented on any regional Government bodies and the Further Education Funding Council's regional committees (Rec 36).
Funding ought to be directed towards supporting regional projects. Dearing recommends that funding should continue to be available after next April, when the Higher Education Regional Development Fund is due to end (Rec 37).
Dearing emphasises entrepreneurship and suggests that graduates and postgraduates be encouraged to start businesses. He recommends Government funding of institutions to promote students and staff business ideas (Rec 39).