Businesses must have a more effective input into the design and delivery of courses at undergraduate, postgraduate and foundation level, according to Universities UK's submission to the Treasury-initiated Lambert review into business-university links.
It states: "There is a need for continuing dialogue between representatives of different kinds of business, such as the newly formed sector skills councils, and higher education institutions to identify improved approaches to involving businesses in curriculum design, especially for foundation degree programmes."
Although the terms of reference of the review by Richard Lambert, former editor of the Financial Times, focus on science and technology transfer, the UUK submission stresses that all subjects contribute to business success. It calls this knowledge transfer rather than just technology transfer. The submission also warns against generalisations, saying that they can be damaging to national and international reputations.
Diana Warwick, UUK chief executive, said: "While the diversity of UK business is well understood, policy-makers and others outside higher education commonly overlook a similar diversity that exists within the UK higher education sector."
The submission, the first part of which was written by consultants for UUK and the second part of which includes the results of a survey conducted by UUK, says that successful outreach from higher education to business needs more than a funding stream. "It needs to be embedded in the core activities of HEIs alongside and part of, not separate from, teaching and research."
The submission also recommends that training across universities is improved so that academics keen to work with business have the necessary skills - particularly in project management.
Universities need to develop strategies that will give the business community a better appreciation of diversity. "In this task they need the fullest support of regional development agencies and local business support organisations," the submission says.
In all, 31 universities responded to the UUK survey on governance and management strategy, detailing the areas of expertise of independent, lay or external governors.
A number of institutions detail in the survey the arrangements for managing university-business interactions - often at pro vice-chancellor level.
• The government should introduce a "university tax credit" as an incentive for more businesses to invest in research in universities, writes Caroline Davis.
The suggestion comes from Unico, the university companies association, in its response to the Lambert review.
Unico mainly represents university technology transfer companies but also includes venture capitalists, research funders and research-intensive companies among its members.
The credit would work in a similar way to the government research and development tax credits. They would be available to companies who work with a university to develop their business through research and development collaborations and contracts, consulting and continual professional development.
In its response to Lambert, Unico says that the people at the interface between business and universities are key. It says that interactions are complex and require dedicated professionals to deal with them and minimise conflict between two very different cultures.