Support for the creative economy

Written evidence submitted by Universities UK [ SCE 022 ]

About University UK

Universities UK (UUK) is the representative organisation for the UK’s universities. Founded in 1918, its mission is to be the definitive voice for all universities in the UK, providing high quality leadership and support to its members to promote a successful and diverse higher education sector. With 133 members and offices in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh, it promotes the strength and success of UK universities nationally and internationally.

1. Many of the points raised in this submission are expanded upon in Creating Prosperity: the role of higher education in driving the UK’s creative economy, published by Universities UK in December 2010, which is available at http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/Publications/ Documents/CreatingProsperityTheRoleOfHigherEducation20101130.pdf

2. Higher education has a crucial role in supporting the creative industries. It is the primary producer of the skills that feed the creative industries, and is an important source of new research that informs new ideas, practices and business models. On some estimates, as much as 18 per cent of students are engaged in a course of study relevant to the creative industries. The government should recognise the importance of the creative industries, and the role of higher education within them, through a clearly articulated strategy.

3. The strength of UK higher education institutions, including those specialising in subjects directly related to the creative industries, contributes to the status of the UK, and London in particular, as a hub of cultural and economic activity stemming from the creative industries. The LSE’s report The Impact of Three London Conservatoires on the UK and London Economies outlines the economic benefits of three specialist higher education institutions. It is available online at http://www.ram.ac.uk/LSE-Conservatoires-Report

4. The impact of the recent teaching funding reforms in higher education are still uncertain. There will be a need to monitor this situation closely and if needs be take a view on how to sustain those subjects delivering significant social or economic benefits in the creative industries through strategic public investment.

5. The level of investment in academic research relating to the creative economy, although increasing, is still modest in comparison to science disciplines.The government should resist the narrow view that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects represent the exclusive route to economic success. Government and the research councils should ensure adequate funding for research in disciplines relevant to the creative industries. This should include social science research into the nature of the creative economy. Research assessment mechanisms should also ensure that the outputs and impacts of creative industries-related research are fully recognised and rewarded.

6. Universities should continue to develop multidisciplinary education at postgraduate level, which brings together creative, technology and business disciplines. This should be supported by increased investment into multidisciplinary research projects across the three main research councils with interests in the creative economy.

7. The structure of the creative industry sector, comprising many small and micro-businesses, makes engagement between creative industries and higher education difficult. There is no clear reward for academics for such engagement. Support for university-business interaction should be a priority issue for Local Enterprise Partnerships in England, and for economic development agencies in the devolved nations, and this should include interaction between higher education and the creative industries.

8. Third-stream funding, in particular from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) has been critical in supporting knowledge exchange between universities and the creative industries. Government and the funding councils should ensure ongoing support for third-stream funding.

9. Higher education policy, and its funding, is not sufficiently flexible to fully incentivise higher education’s contribution to the creative industries. At the same time, creative industries policy has paid too little regard to the role that higher education plays in supporting the sector. The two areas of policy are not always fully aligned, and the government should look to address this.

November 2012

Prepared 17th November 2012