The higher education sector of the United Kingdom has been contributing to the country’s economy. In the past two years alone, universities in the country chipped in an average £3.35 billion economic income in the form of services to business which includes commercialisation of new knowledge, provision of professional training and consultancy. UK higher education can still improve some more to increase its contribution to Britain’s economy as well as those of developing countries.
A panel of experts weighed in on the role universities play in the economic growth of the UK and developing countries in a live chat held by the Guardian Professional on 6 September 2013. Here are some points from their takes on how the UK higher education sector can increase its economic contribution.
Show Prospective Foreign Students They are Welcome
International education provides graduates with the expanded mind who challenge perceptions who are the ones the global employment field demands, 1994 Group member Alex Bols says. This is on top of the tuition fees and other economic activity being brought in by international students to the UK. However, some parts of the globe feel that Britain is limiting the enrolment of foreign students in its universities. Universities should encourage graduates to have an international outlook and, specifically, support the higher education sector’s initiatives in recruiting foreign students, says chat conference commenter Nic Mitchell.
Develop Soft Skills and Research Capability
The UK should take into consideration the emergence of developing economies and also capitalise on it, says one commenter by the user name of ReinersA. While the emerging economies compete with developed countries in producing graduates who are highly skilled and in developing their own centres of research, companies in Britain can both hire locally schooled graduates and outsource high-skilled labour. Cost will be lowered in doing the former. UK graduates should have not only the hard skills but also the soft skills.
Facilitate the Application of Discoveries
Universities should nurture and defend its exclusive role of directing research towards new discoveries even without any expected application or benefit. But they should also facilitate the application of the results of the research for the benefit of the economy and the society, Uinversity of Manchester participant Luke Georghiou says. Chat conference commenter Sara Walker adds that the academe should explain to industry in better ways the value of fundamental research as a precursor and vital stage to applied research.
Work More Closely with Business
Aside from transferring the results of research to industry through the employment of graduates into professions, the higher education sector can also keep in contact with their alumni. This way, the universities’ contribution to the economy and the society continues with shared studies and partnerships in projects, Mr Goerghiou further says.
Save Some (Graduates) for “Yourself”
For a chat participant representing the National Union of Students, Dom Anderson, having an institution of higher learning has a psychological effect on a place. This is on top of the retention of universities and localities of their graduates to help the institutions and the areas themselves to enrich the economy and the society.
Continue the Competition
UK universities have been engrossed in competing among one another in terms of academics and research. The higher education sector should not forget that it is still highly regarded by the rest of the world and that it still has a role in shaping the emerging landscape of the higher education overseas. Teaching quality and professional development frameworks should be given focus, Bath Spa University representative in the chat conference Adam Powell says.
Uphold Admission Matching
The higher education sector of the UK should see to it that they provide aspiring university students with enough information and help on how to choose the course that fits them. Together with this, the universities should make sure that students get the knowledge and skills to enable them to meet industry standards when they get employed. This is a matter of providing quality products, read graduates, to employers, asserts Alex Bols.
Human capital has become the primary indicator of economic growth, says Libby Hackett of the University Alliance. There has been a growing concern that there is oversupply of graduates and that higher education has become a saturated industry; however, it cannot be denied that a number strong of quality educated work force will be a key in economic prosperity in the future, the University Alliance representative asserts.
Financial returns are derived from only a few intellectual properties and there is so much more economic benefits for the society when ideas are shared, Universities UK representative Vivienne Stern points out. For her, legislators may have been overly excited about what monetary gains universities can derive by exploiting their IP rights and that they should realise that there is so much advantages of putting information out in the open.
Determine the Economic Impact of Degrees
Lastly, the higher education sector should design or redesign courses by knowing what advantages they give to graduates especially on their job marketability, employability and power to earn. Chat participant Anna Vignoles opines that aside from defining this aspect where the benefit can be clearly measured, overall impact of higher education on economic growth is harder to detect. Thus, she suggests having better links to industry to be able to get insights on the impact of graduates on local and national economy.
What other suggestions you can give to help improve how the higher education sector contributes to the economy and the society?