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The Westminster government should wake up to the full potential of higher education to help it meet its ‘levelling up’ goals, argues Professor Martin Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Staffordshire University.
Collaboration between universities and business is growing, according to a new report from the National Centre for Universities and Business. Shivaun Meehan, the NCUB's head of communications, outlines the report's findings and its recommendations for building on the progress.
In these uncertain times, the UK needs more than ever to have vibrant and productive university-business partnerships to develop talented graduates and create innovative products and processes.
The word university was taken from universitas, the community of scholars and teachers at the University of Bologna. Businesses are now part of that community and looking to be good colleagues and partners across the range of economic and social challenges. The National Centre’s fourth annual report on the State of the Relationship between universities, business and policy makers provides strong examples of such collaborations right across the UK, and demonstrates impressive progress over the past five years. Case studies illustrate and celebrate breakthroughs from many key sectors and universities from all mission groups.
Updated metrics show solid healthy growth. The monitoring tool identifies 15 trends in resources for collaboration, knowledge flows between universities and business, partnerships and commercialisation activities. It shows investment in university business collaboration from both foreign sources and domestic companies is growing with foreign investment is outstripping domestic growth by four times (£1.3 billion compared with £336 million). Industry income for knowledge exchange activities (excluding licensing) received by universities increased from £906 million in 2014 to £947 million in 2015. And postgraduate employment and other commercialisation activities are also rising.
To help scale up connectivity the National Centre has been pioneering platforms for innovation, work experience and community interaction.
konfer.online helps business find and connect to research, facilities and equipment and innovation opportunities in every university in the UK. Launched in alpha last year, next phase developments are looking at how the wealth of data harvested can support more businesses and universities to collaborate.
Our research is clear - undergraduates with work experience are more likely to be employed, have increased confidence, attain better classifications of degree, and get a better job faster. To help create a national pool of work experiences, particularly for disadvantaged students we are developing a tinder-style work experience platform called BrandU.
And to overcome the barriers for business and university interaction, we are developing the workwith problem solving social network that will ensure the same tools are available for business university engagement as used in everyday life, and give access to content libraries from our members and partners.
Great work is being done, but the National Centre calls for more focus on:
· Cross-disciplinary problem solving.
· New ways of progressing into higher education through, for example, apprenticeships.
· A deeper commitment by businesses to innovation through university collaboration.
· Increased connectivity at the local level to provide opportunities to graduates in the regions in which they study, and by scaling up local firms.
Copies of the report are available at www.ncub.co.uk.
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