Universities UK (UUK) has published a new report examining the role of UK universities in the economy. Universities UK was established in 1918 and is a network of 133 executive heads (vice-chancellors/principals) of universities in the UK. The organization is funded through its members and works as an advocate for the sector.
The new report is a part of their series regarding “The funding environment for universities”, with emphasis in this issue being on economic development, regional growth and labour market issues.
Examining national data, the report rather explicitly places higher education to a market relevant position, identifying the sector as a “high-growth UK export industry”, aside having a role in skills production and innovation. The report collected data for 2011-2012 year and highlights that the sector generated over 100 billion euros in output, employing over 375 000 people. Together with additional jobs that are dependent on universities, the sector stands fro 2,7% of UK employment in 2011.
The report further highlights the role of universities in innovation and knowledge production (knowledge exchange, commercialization, indirect innovation and network creation, and entrepreneurship support services), as well as producing the necessary skills. The report highlights that: “The UK is seeing a growth in high-wage analytical, non-routine jobs; an expansion ofmanual low-wage roles; and a contraction of middle-wage jobs” (p.4), emphasizing the role of universities in this shift. In the press release of the report, UUK cites Dame Julia Goodfellow, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent, who highlights: “The UK must ensure that the higher-level skills required in the labour market are met and our universities have an important role to play in meeting this demand, both through their more traditional model of three-year undergraduate university study, and by developing other routes to higher skills.” She continues further: “Universities are a globally recognised source of innovation and research and, in turn, attract direct foreign investment. They generate knowledge and discovery that can boost both the private and the public sectors.”