V-cs told to boost ties with business

October 17, 2003

A senior business adviser has questioned whether universities are doing enough to exploit their links with the private sector.

Colin Horwath, a senior partner at corporate services company KPMG, told a meeting of London vice-chancellors this week that there were plenty of examples of good university-business links in the capital.

But Mr Horwath said: "The challenge to this group is 'are we moving fast enough and recognising the trends and knowing what our competitors are doing?' A lot is going on, but is it enough?"

The meeting, organised by the London Higher Education Consortium and supported by Barclays bank, also heard from Sir Graeme Davies, vice-chancellor of London University. He said that higher education in the capital generated almost £9 billion for the UK economy and accounted for 4 per cent of London's gross domestic product.

Sir Graeme added that London institutions educated 335,000 students, of which 36 per cent were from non-white ethnic groups. The sector employed 58,000 staff directly and supported an estimated 115,000 jobs indirectly, he said.

But Sir Graeme warned that the government's policy of further concentrating research funding in top-rated universities could work against the very enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit that the government wanted to foster in higher education.

He said: "We as a sector have to find a way of dealing with it - dare I say it, in spite of government policy."

Higher education minister Alan Johnson, who had left the meeting earlier, emphasised the government's desire to see more partnerships between universities and industry. But he said they could not be at the expense of the dual-support system for science and research.

The government has commissioned Richard Lambert, a former editor of the Financial Times , to produce a report on university-business links. The report is due out at the end of next month.

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