The commission has focused on the critical role of universities in city-scale and wider economic development. Graduates are vitally needed to fill the projected increase of 2.3 million higher-level jobs the commission anticipates will flow out of a knowledge-based economy. HEFCE welcomes the commission’s recognition of the importance of national funding for excellence in teaching and research, but also of the devolved skills budgets, European structural and investment funds and other funding flexibilities available for cities to secure graduate enterprise talent in conjunction with universities. The report recognises the importance of HEFCE’s recent call under the Catalyst Fund for projects to provide vital evidence on how universities can act more effectively as city and local anchors, and to highlight innovations in providing technical education that will be vital to thriving cities (Note 3).
The report draws attention to international rankings of innovation performance which put the UK in second place globally for the quality of our scientific institutions, and fourth for our strengths in university-industry links (Note 4). The report confirms the importance of universities in developing high-tech clusters, and of university technology transfer offices in forging close links with local venture capital and entrepreneur communities.
The report highlights the conclusions of the Witty Review of Universities and Growth (Note 5), stressing the essential contribution of HEFCE funding – including the UK Research Partnerships Investment Fund, the Higher Education Innovation Fund and the Catalyst Fund – to supporting the economic growth role of universities. It also highlights some important development areas that HEFCE and universities are already addressing:
David Sweeney, HEFCE Director Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange, said:
It is particularly valuable when those external to universities, such as the City Growth Commission, confirm that we are on the right track in supporting the development of universities as economic and societal anchors. I am of course also pleased that this report praises so many HEFCE initiatives. I hope that the evidence from the projects we support through our Catalyst Fund can help universities to play a more effective role, cities to see the opportunities to work more closely with higher education – and policy-makers to see the wonderful potential of these close university-city partnerships.