Partnerships with academia critical to UK competitiveness

18 December 2008

Collaboration between business and universities could help the UK to maintain its competitive edge, according to a CBI-Universities UK report out last month. ‘Stepping Higher’ looks at how business and universities can work together to improve the skills of the workforce.

Of the £33bn spent on training annually, around £5bn could be provided by universities, according to government research. ‘Stepping Higher’ suggests ways in which universities can tap into this market by making themselves more accessible to business. For example, running courses on employers’ premises
outside normal term time and adapting teaching styles to new audiences. It also highlights the advantages for businesses of working with higher education to create training programmes that deliver the skills they need, as well as the potential for generating ideas for new products and services.

Richard Lambert, Director-General of the CBI (, said that although many universities and businesses were working together effectively, more could be done to encourage further collaboration.

He said: “A strong relationship between business and university sectors is critical to helping the UK maintain competitiveness and the economic downturn makes it even more important for employers to strengthen workforce skills as competitive pressures intensify. Both sides can benefit from collaboration – businesses from new thinking and high quality employees, and universities from practical insights that enrich their teaching and research.

“CBI surveys have shown that employers are not confident that there will be sufficient skilled people available to them in the future to meet their needs. By failing to harness the knowledge and expertise of universities, businesses could be missing out on the chance to get high quality tailor-made training that will help their companies prosper in the longer term.”

A recent CBI survey of more than 600 employers in England found that 55% were worried about future skills shortages.

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