What role will universities play in the UK’s industrial strategy?

‘Greg Clark, the new business secretary who oversees the university research budget, said that Ms May’s new industrial strategy would recognise “our strengths – from science to the creative industries – and making sure they are nurtured and encouraged”. “Special emphasis” would be placed on helping “hi-tech firms in university towns – where different regions already have a competitive edge”, the newspaper reported.

One of the problems Mr Clark may have to confront is how to both fund “excellence” and make sure investment does not go to already wealthy areas of the country. In UK research, for example, research funding has historically been distributed on the basis of excellence, but this, say some critics, has led to concentration in the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge.

If the government decides to encourage industrial clusters around high-performing university departments, there are still enough excellent universities outside the golden triangle to “at least correct the North-South divide”, Vince Cable, who was business secretary in the coalition government between 2010 and 2015, told Times Higher Education.

However, such an approach would mean the “Blackpools and the Hartlepools” of the UK could miss out, he cautioned. Another danger is that cities without a university feel pressured to convert an already well-performing further education college into a university to attract an industrial cluster. It is “dangerous to become too obsessed with the university campus”, he said.’ – Times Higher Education 

 

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