David Green, vice-chancellor of the University of Worcester, told the Association of Commonwealth Universities’ conference of executive heads in Hong Kong this week that he had “a great deal of sympathy” with the student protesters, and suggested that the banking industry should make a greater contribution to the academy at a time of public spending cuts.
“There are a lot of people…who have done rather well out of banking over the past generation or two and…the fund management industry is reckoned to consume uselessly $1,300 billion (£795 billion) a year,” he said. “But I’m an economist so I suppose I would think that.”
On the question of who should pay for the academy, he added: “The public should undoubtedly finance a university education because our graduates have such a positive impact on society. People themselves benefit.
“Corporations benefit greatly – they need skilled workers, otherwise their businesses will fail.”
Professor Green added that philanthropists should also contribute, as well as the universities themselves through their earnings from intellectual property.
In a presentation titled Affordable Higher Education, Employable Graduates: an Innovative, Productive Paradigm, Professor Green said Worcester, which has yet to declare its tuition fees for 2012, boasted the “number one” position for graduate employability in its region – beating both Birmingham and Warwick universities – and was sixth by this measure in the UK.
It had achieved these standards by making employability a priority, he said, including its Earn as you Learn initiative, which allows students to receive payments for activities such as care for the elderly and sports coaching, work that is linked to its courses.
Asked whether he thought vice-chancellors in the UK would receive “bonuses” for steering their institutions through the funding reforms, he said: “Sometimes the income that a vice-chancellor gets is inversely correlated with their performance. That does sometimes happen because people get large pay-offs to go.”