Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE)
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How universities can help in the current economic climate

Details of how universities and colleges can do still more to help businesses during an economic downturn were  published recently by Universities UK and GuildHE, supported by HEFCE.

The brochure, 'Standing together: universities helping business through the downturn', sets out the kind of support universities and colleges can offer employers, both in the current economic climate and longer term. This includes:

  • practical support to help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) spot problems early, focusing on SMEs' top priorities of cash flow, access to finance and staff training
  • consultancy services
  • research support
  • staff development and training courses
  • strengthened partnerships through the Regional Development Agencies, Business Link, Train2Gain and Sector Skills Councils.

With over 150 providers to choose from, it lists a point of contact within each higher education institution for businesses to use to find out more about how higher education and business support providers can help them.

Professor David Eastwood, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:

'Higher education has a crucial role to play in helping the country through the economic downturn. Our universities and colleges provide the people and ideas that inform and stimulate our economy, society and culture. Higher education recognises the need to respond rapidly and collectively to the unprecedented challenges. This brochure shows that universities and HE colleges are building on their existing connections and are more ready than ever to support businesses and their employees in meeting today's problems. I commend this action and we at HEFCE stand ready to support universities and colleges in every way we can.'

Professor Rick Trainor, President, Universities UK, said:

'Universities work hard to make themselves accessible and useful to business, but we are keen to do more. We want to be responsive to business needs, and for that response to be quick, flexible and of real benefit. The case studies in this brochure give a flavour of the many ways business can engage with universities, whether it's consultancy to help SMEs to become more productive and profitable, providing incubator space for start-up companies, or offering training designed to fit around company practices.'

Professor David Baker, Chair of GuildHE, said:

'The specialist connections to their industries and professions that higher education providers possess can give a practical lifeline and innovative ideas to those managing small and medium-sized businesses. Universities and colleges have an impressive track record already and the regional networks can ensure there is help at hand wherever in the country businesses need support. UUK's case study work in this document valuably exemplifies the opportunities available across higher education and in a wide range of business sectors.'

David Lammy, Minister of State for Higher Education said:

'The Government has made it clear that we will do whatever we can to respond to the current economic challenges. Higher education can and is playing a central role in supporting businesses and individuals with skills, advice, knowledge and know-how.

'I know that business leaders recognise that their enterprises are more likely to survive if they continue to invest for the long term, but they need help. Higher education will support them through the difficult times to emerge in a stronger position. I congratulate UUK, with support from HEFCE, on producing this brochure as a call to action. I look forward to institutions using this resource imaginatively and in partnership with other agencies in their region who together can make a difference to people's lives.'

The brochure will be distributed widely through the higher education regional associations, Regional Development Agencies, chambers of commerce and other business networks.

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