Universities must be more business-friendly

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Publication date: 1 November 2003



(2003), "Universities must be more business-friendly", Education + Training, Vol. 45 No. 7. https://doi.org/10.1108/et.2003.00445gab.005

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited

Universities must be more business-friendly

Universities must be more business-friendly

British business is missing out on world-class researchers and higher-quality graduates because some universities lack customer focus, says Digby Jones, head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). He was presenting a CBI paper aimed at identifying the benefits, barriers and practical ways of promoting effective collaboration between business and higher education in the UK.

The paper includes the findings of a snapshot survey of larger CBI member companies, most of which already have links with universities. Half of the firms said they benefit from the intellectual and research expertise in the universities. Almost half use links as a means of picking out future recruits. However, half of the respondents said a lack of "customer service" from some universities was a barrier to greater involvement. Some firms had difficulty identifying the right person to talk to and others found that the accepted sense of business urgency did not match that of the academics.

A quarter of companies said graduate recruits lacked business awareness and high-level skills. Some 14 per cent of firms said that courses are not sufficiently relevant to business. Employers said they would be more willing to get involved if universities were prepared to develop well-defined, bespoke courses that add value to the business.

Digby Jones said: "Successful links between business and universities have contributed to the world-class companies we have in Britain today. But if more firms are to benefit from collaboration we all have a role to play. Universities need to become more business friendly and customer focused. If some of the UK's largest companies have problems identifying the right person to speak to in a university, think how daunting it will be for a small or medium-size business."

The paper argues that Government can encourage business and universities to work together. It must ensure that universities make the quality of graduates, particularly their business awareness, a priority. It could also facilitate a national database to help firms to identify the centres of excellence in particular fields across the UK.