The Training and Enterprise National Council has called for a programme of establishing universities in regions without higher education, writes Simon Targett.
The council, which represents the TECs in England and Wales, has told Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, that franchising arrangements with local further education colleges have been important but address only the issue of access for local students.
They "completely fail to provide for the key higher education input into local economic and business development", it added.
In an extensive and wide-ranging submission to the Government's higher education review, based on a survey of 30 TECs and 70 employers, the council says that higher education should "realise the full potential of the community through advanced scholarship, teaching and research".
The council rejected the 1960s Robbins notion that universities should "transmit a common culture and common standards of citizenship".
The document stresses the importance of local commitment and suggests that the Higher Education Funding Council should consider developing regional structures and relationships with TECs like those established by the Further Education Funding Council.
The council warns that the current funding regime, which privileges a handful of research oriented universities, could "produce a two-tier higher education system".
It concludes: "Such a system could result in one set of universities focusing on responding to international opportunities, high level research and national recruitment, to the detriment of another set with inadequate geographical coverage only engaged in local recruitment and responding to local economic and learning requirements."
The single subject honours degree is considered "of questionable value" for preparing graduates for employment and only justifiable for students preparing for specialised research.
The council wants to see broad-based multi-disciplinary degrees offered within a changed higher education curriculum which features, among other things, an "enterprise" element through work experience.
Chris Humphries, policy director of the TEC national council, said that universities would have to start listening to these proposals because they are founded on the fact that the number of traditional A-level entrants has reached a plateau of 280,000 places and that more than half of entrants are mature students.
He said: "No business can afford to put at a risk more than 50 per cent of its client base."