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Universities fail to develop business skills – CBI research


CBI Director General Digby Jones is urging universities to be more business friendly. He said that business was missing out on world class researchers and higher quality graduates because some universities lack customer focus. Referring to a new paper (pdf) aimed at identifying the benefits, barriers and practical ways of promoting effective collaboration between business and higher education in the UK.

Half of the firms surveyed said they benefit from the intellectual and research expertise in the universities. Almost half use links as a means of picking out future recruits.

However, half of the respondents said a lack of "customer service" from some universities was a barrier to greater involvement. Some firms had difficulty identifying the right person to talk to and others found that the accepted sense of business urgency did not match that of the academics.

A quarter of companies said graduate recruits lacked business awareness and high level skills. Fourteen per cent of firms said that courses are not sufficiently relevant to business. Employers said they would be more willing to get involved if universities were prepared to develop well-defined bespoke courses that add value to the business.

Digby Jones said: "Successful links between business and universities have contributed to the world class companies we have in Britain today. But if more firms are to benefit from collaboration we all have a role to play.

"Universities need to become more business friendly and customer focussed. If some of the UK's largest companies have problems identifying the right person to speak to in a university, just think how daunting it will be for a small or medium-sized business.

"Business must play its part: Many companies show that successful relationships can be a source of innovation, world class research and development and increased productivity. We need to shout about our successes and spread best practice.

"Government can encourage business and universities to work together. It must ensure that universities make the quality of graduates, particularly their business awareness, a priority. It could also facilitate a national database to help firms identify the centres of excellence in particular fields across the UK.

"This is a virtuous triangle if everyone works on delivery. Business (especially smaller firms) should engage more, universities should be more customer focussed and government should facilitate with an agenda for change and funds to help."

What's your experience of graduates' skills? Post your comments below.


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