Universities are central to economy, but cannot stand still, Blair says

Former prime minister Tony Blair has called for UK higher education to be seen as “a major export” – but warned that universities risk being “left behind” if they do not adjust to change, including public-private partnerships.

April 29, 2012

Mr Blair was speaking in an interview with David Blunkett, who served as his education secretary from 1997 to 2001, for the London School of Business and Finance. Mr Blunkett is a visiting lecturer at the private provider.

Mr Blair said that on taking office in 1997, he was told that it was a “waste of money” to invest in higher education. However, he said, a global need for skills meant that education and a knowledge-based economy were now “central to prosperity”.

“A lot of those skills are globally marketable, so that means that your education system – if it’s done properly – becomes a major part of your economy; it doesn’t just serve your economy, it’s a major part of your economy,” he argued.

Although Mr Blair did not comment explicitly on any of the higher education reforms proposed by the coalition government in its White Paper, he did stress that higher education was a valuable export and he noted that the value of international students should not be underestimated.

“The truth is that we’re up there now with the best in the world at attracting students from all over the world to come and study here,” he said. “Those students will go back not just having studied the English language but [having] some tie to our country.”

Asked about public-private partnerships, Mr Blair said: “If you look at the world today, the one thing that is absolutely clear is that there is a permanent revolution going on of change, and this is very discomfiting for some people at one level.

“It’s also very exciting, by the way, on another level. It offers enormous opportunity, but only for people who are prepared constantly to reassess, to re-evaluate and to adjust. And that is as true in higher education as it is if you’re in the financial sector or manufacturing. Anyone who stands still gets left behind.”


You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry