The higher education representative body GuildHE has urged business leaders to adopt a less blinkered and outdated view of how higher education can help the British economy.
Responding to the CBI Higher Education Taskforce report, Stronger together: Business and universities in turbulent times, GuildHE Chief Executive Alice Hynes welcomed the CBI’s recognition of the quality of UK higher education, its economic value, and the need to maintain levels of public investment.
“This is an important report that presents many challenging ideas that warrant further discussion, and GuildHE looks forward to being part of that conversation,” she said.
But she warned that the report’s over-concentration on support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines to meet the needs of traditional business and industry sectors suggests that Britain should turn the clock back on diversification in higher education that is helping the UK build a modern knowledge-based economy.
She said: “The CBI’s report recognises that our HE sector can deliver world-class education, but it seems to be looking backward to days when industry was based on 19th century manufacturing and an elite management class. New prosperity will come from interdisciplinary work through social as well as physical sciences and through areas like the creative industries. This leads to more dynamic professional interaction which blinkered visions of supporting the study of single STEM subjects won’t deliver. The economic plant needs roots and flowers not just ‘stem’.”
“The CBI report does raise a number of valuable ideas on the question of student support and higher education funding that will feed into the forthcoming fees debate,” Ms Hynes added.
“We are delighted to see that the CBI wants to ensure that HE resource levels are maintained and support is also given to those students most financially vulnerable. GuildHE wants to see funding into the sector at least matching the OECD average, and we are pleased that the CBI has recognised this as an issue that needs to be addressed,” she said.
The CBI is right to draw attention to the importance of raising attainment in schools in order to widen participation in higher education, particularly among those from less privileged backgrounds. But it is wrong to dismiss the impetus provided by the Government’s target for 50 per cent of the working population to have studied at higher education level.
Ms Hynes said: “As is clear from this summer’s application levels, people of all ages want to improve their skills through higher education. We must keep pace with rising demand, and also with our competitor OECD countries that are increasing, not cutting, investment into higher education.”
For more information, please contact:
GuildHE Chief Executive
Tel: 0207 387 7711