Memorandum submitted by Dr Geoffrey Copeland,
Chairman, Coalition of Modern Universities, Vice Chancellor, University
On behalf of the Coalition of Modern Universities,
which consists of 32 of the university institutions created in
1992 who are in membership of CVCP, I am happy to endorse the
submission of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals
which you have already received. In addition I should like to
draw the attention of the Committee to the enclosed research report,
due to be published in July.
I note that in recent Reports the Committee has drawn attention
to the need for a strategy to promote involvement with SMEs, the
need for more qualified SET graduates and the role of industry
in attracting graduates into industrial careers. Our research
is of relevance to all these issues.
"Modern Universities and SMEs: Building
Relationships" is based on a survey of 500 small and medium-sized
enterprises (SMEs) in five localities. Commissioned from the Institute
for Employment Research at the University of Warwick, the study
was designed to:
map the extent of interaction between
SMEs and their local universities;
explore the types of interaction
in which companies were involved, and how they had been achieved;
gauge the success of links between
SMEs and the five modern universities participating in the study,
highlight potential areas for development
in building relationships between SMEs and modern universities.
Overall, the survey data revealed that a substantial
proportion of SMEs have developed beneficial relationships with
their local modern university with regard to the recruitment of
graduates, obtaining professional development and training, and
assistance with technology and knowledge transfer relating to
new product/service development and general business support.
Recruitment of graduates: is
more likely where there are existing links with a university and
36 per cent of the SMEs surveyed provided placements; placements
act as a way of "screening" of prospective employees
and demonstrate the value of employing graduates.
Continuing professional development:
22 per cent of SMEs had taken advantage of this service but there
was a lack of awareness and perceived lack of need amongst the
Knowledge and technology transfer:
15 per cent of SMEs had benefited from this of which 5 per cent
were related to technological innovation. This compares well with
the DTI 1996 national survey figure of 4 per cent. These links
were often the result of individual academics forging relationships.
The survey indicates that there may well be
a "latent" demand from employers for the types of service
that universities are well placed to serve. A number of employers
reported that in the future they would like to establish a relationship
with their local university but felt constrained in doing so because
of a lack of information about how to develop a link.
The above finding must however be viewed in
context. There are over two million SMEs and about 100 universities.
The difficulties universities face in making contact with such
a large number of SMEs, many of them micro enterprises, is well
known; SME's often lack the personnel and expertise to engage
in knowledge transfer activities.
Although most of the activities surveyed were
in place before the introduction of the new Higher Education Reach
Out funding, all five universities had committed a substantial
resource to building relationships with SMEs through, for example,
developing "one stop" facilities that provided information,
signposting, and brokerage services to businesses interested in
developing a relationship with the university. Similarly, the
universities surveyed had been proactive in developing networks
regionally and targeting industries where they possessed expertise.
With a limited resource, the universities had developed strong
links with SMEs to assist their graduates obtain jobs. In addition
to this, they had fostered links with SMEs relating to activities
where they had a particular academic strength.
The study also points out that, when considering
the role of the modern university in building relationships with
SMEs it is also necessary to bear in mind the primary purpose
of the university. Though there may be a strong latent demand
from SMEs for a particular type of service, universities may not
be best placed to meet that demand alone. Targeting of resources
through intermediary organisations such as Business Links, TECs
and other potential partners in the local area had proved highly
successful for several of the universities in building relationships
I hope that this summary will encourage your
members to read the rest of our report which will I trust be of
interest and assistance to you in drawing up your Report.
20 June 2000
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