Responding to speeches from Higher Education Minister, David Lammy, and Universities UK President, Steve Smith, at the UUK annual conference in Edinburgh today, Alice Hynes, Chief Executive of the higher education representative body GuildHE, said: 

"It is pleasing to hear the Minister support some of the key messages in Professor Smith’s speech, including the enormous contribution higher education makes towards the financial and social health of Britain, and the importance of maintaining a diverse sector made up of institutions with different strengths and overlapping and contrasting missions. 
"It is this very diversity that allows our institutions to serve the many and varied needs of our economy and society, and which makes our higher education system one of the best in the world. 
"Professor Smith is right to underline the importance of the work institutions do to support their local economies and communities as well as contributing to growth in the national and global economies and serving people and organisations at a national and international level. And I agree with the Minister that perhaps it is time for the sector to shout more about what it gives back in return for taxpayers’ money. 
"We would be concerned, however, if the Minister’s suggestion that institutions should find new ways to leverage more private money into the system signals a reluctance to invest enough public money to maintain infrastructure, meet the growing demand for student places, and to maintain our world-class standards. This week the Education at a Glance report from the OECD showed that the UK is already falling behind its competitors in its level of public investment into higher education. We cannot afford to slip even further behind. To do so would be to risk losing many of the economic and social benefits referred to today."