A new study published by Universities UK highlights the economic benefits of higher education.
The report “The Economic Role of UK Universities” highlights the £73 billion of economic output that was generated by UK universities during 2011-2012.
According to the report universities play a significant part in supporting economic growth and overcoming several weakness of the UK economy, including lagging labour productivity, low investment in research and development (R&D) and skills shortages.
We have spoken before about the importance of collaboration between small businesses and universities and how facilitating this collaboration can bring mutual benefit and increase the potential of universities to impact the success of small business, economic growth and growth of communities. This report highlights the areas where a significant difference can be made.
The report says that universities are increasingly collaborating with employers to develop “innovative pathways” to higher level skills. Universities have an important part in supporting business to drive product, process and service innovation crucial to driving growth in the UK. Indeed they play a role in increasing private sector productivity through a range of knowledge exchange activities with businesses such as long term collaborative research programmes consultancy and bespoke training. This has been shown to significantly improve business investment in R&D, business performance on process and innovation and the sale of novel products.
The other key area where small businesses can benefit from working with universities is to support them in responding to skill needs as the shape of the workforce changes. We know from talking to businesses that time and again lack of relevant skills is s real challenge to business growth and sustainability.
As the report says “The UK is seeing a growth in high-wage analytical, non-routine jobs; an expansion of manual low-wage roles; and a contraction of middle wage jobs. As a result it must ensure that the higher level skills required in the labour market are met. Universities have an important role to play in meeting this demand both through their more traditional model of three year undergraduate university study and by developing a broader range of pathway to higher skills.
Some businesses present a variety of unique skill challenges that are difficult to meet, other than through employer led, bespoke and flexible alternative learning pathways. Increasingly universities are collaborating with employers to develop diverse and innovative pathways to higher skills”