APPENDICES TO THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Memorandum from Universities UK
1. Universities UK welcomes the opportunity
to submit a memorandum outlining our views of the regional agencies
and related issues. Universities have made significant progress
in addressing the regional agendamany universities see
regional involvement as an important part of their mission. The
DTI and DfEE White Paper "Opportunity for All in a World
of Change" recognised the central role played by universities
as key drivers of the regional economy.
2. Universities work closely with regional
develop effective partnerships with
businesses both within the Funding Council's Higher Education
Reach-out to Business and the Community initiative (HEROBAC) and
improve graduate employability;
promote social inclusion;
access European Regional funding
encourage technology transfer and
commercialisation of university research.
3. Universities UK is working in partnership
with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE),
and the Centre for Urban and Regional Development (CURDS) at the
University of Newcastle to map the range of contributions which
universities make to their regions, and to develop better ways
of assessing their impact. These contributions include:
the role of the universities as businesses
and major employers in their own right;
the provision of highly skilled manpower;
the availability of cultural, social
and sporting facilities;
supporting regeneration through major
building projects and student accommodation;
undertaking research about the region,
or research that benefits regional companies;
contributing to perceptions of the
region as a suitable location for business investment; and
participating in regional political
and administrative structures.
4. The final reports will be launched at
a Universities UK conference in June 2001. They will contain numerous
examples of successful projects that universities have undertaken
in partnership with regional agencies.
5. Universities are developing close links
with the Small Business Services (SBS). SBS advisory staff can
help universities to communicate more effectively with SMEs. University
consortia are working in partnership with the SBS to highlight
the range of services that universities can offer to SMEs.
6. Universities UK trusts that the SBS will
continue to act as an objective honest broker, linking SMEs to
the third party providers of specialist services. We hope that
the Government will ensure that there is no shift in the SBS mission
from being a sign posting and referral service, to one charged
with delivery and income generation. Such a change in focus would
compromise the SBS's objectivity, and place it in direct competition
with the rest of the public sector business support network.
7. Higher education is not part of the Learning
and Skills Councils (LSC) agenda. However, it is essential that
LSCs are in regular contact with local higher education institutions
in the interests of progression and lifelong learning. The majority
of the local LSC boards have higher education representatives,
and university consortia are building good working relationships
with LSC staff.
8. University Associations have regular,
formal and informal contacts with RDAs, Regional Assemblies and
Government Offices, and are represented on a range of committees,
project and other groups.
9. Relationships with the RDAs are particularly
strong and universities have worked with the RDAs to formulate
action plans and other regional strategies. The recent "Skills
for Life: The national strategy for improving adult literacy and
numeracy skills", from the DfEE specifies that RDAs "give
priority to adult literacy and numeracy" in their Skills
Action Plans. We are concerned that this may hinder RDA attempts
to move to higher skills concerns.
10. There is a need for more longer-term
funding programmes for regional initiatives. Other than HEROBAC
(now the Higher Education Innovation Fund), universities do not
receive any Government funding to support the development of their
regionally-based activities. All such activities have an opportunity
11. Universities UK would welcome an examination
of the present pattern by which funding is made available. Theoretically,
funding is provided one year at a time, but in practice (by the
time bidding, tendering and contracting has gone through) it is
quite commonly eight months at a time, which increases the difficulty
in achieving a significant change.
12. Universities have to respond to other
needseg the need to maintain centres of excellence or to
raise aspirations to enter HE among people in the local area.
The interactions between regional and other roles can be complex.
World-class research produced by universities makes a major contribution
to attracting inward investment and encouraging research-related
spin-off companies. The regional contribution would be diminished
by any constraint on universities' international roles.
13. Government initiatives introduced in
the regions over the last few years have presented significant
challenges for HE. Continuing effort is needed on all sides to
establish good working relationships, to ensure that information
is disseminated, and to clarify roles.