Current Issues affecting UK Higher Education and Business


The Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) is a unique high-level partnership of leaders from businesses, universities and colleges. As the leading authoritative and powerful champion of effective business-higher education relations it aims to foster close working and understanding between business and higher education so that world-class learning and research can improve the international competitiveness of both sectors and the capabilities of graduates and those already in the workforce.

The activities of the CIHE are shaped by an ever-changing and complex environment in which the global movement of capital and skills and the aggressive consolidation of European business will intensify. The balance of international activity will shift towards such growth markets as China and India. More businesses will search for talent globally, looking for high quality graduates, post-graduates and business relevant research. Innovation and technological diffusion will accelerate in a flatter world where excellence will be increasingly concentrated around peaks of knowledge intensity that have world-class universities at their core.

Dialogue with our members suggests that universities are subject to the same global pressures and movements of staff; the international competition for students, research and staff will intensify. Factors such as the English language and shorter courses offer current competitive advantage to UK universities; but greater harmonisation of EU learning post-Bologna, the rise of Chinese universities and the growth of Mandarin as a second web language will reduce these advantages.

There is in our view an increasing political agreement that higher education is a key driver of competitiveness and needs to be better funded. The UK has to increase its demand for graduates, post-graduates and an increasingly skilled workforce as it focuses more on high value, knowledge intensive industries.

The increase in the age profile of the UK population and the reduction in young students and workers after 2010 will mean that businesses will place a greater premium on up-skilling their existing workforce at all levels; this will increase the opportunities for all learning providers including those offering higher levels of learning.

There is an emerging consensus that the UK needs a world class UK higher education system that is international in its outlook and is better funded by all who benefit: the State, graduates and businesses. With this in mind, this Briefing Note outlines some of the current higher education policy issues which the CIHE is addressing through engaging its university and business members. This is an agenda that we are discussing with the Government as they evolve their policies on higher education, innovation and skills.