CBI head Richard Lambert urges business to help fund university courses and teaching

CBI boss Richard Lambert has urged private sector firms to pump cash into the higher education system to help soften the blow of funding cuts, Personnel Today has learned.

Last week the Higher Education Funding Council revealed that university budgets would be slashed by £950m over the next three years – including a £215m reduction in teaching budgets.

Skills experts at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills conference in London today warned that these cuts would affect the quality of teaching and skills provided, and called on employers to limit the damage by helping to fund universities and colleges offering skills.

Richard Lambert, director general of the CBI, told Personnel Today that it was “depressing” that higher education was the first sector to suffer in spending cuts.

He said: “There will be constraints on teaching funding so that’s a concern. Inevitably the private sector will have to find ways of putting funding into university systems over the next few years. This could be done in a number of ways, like providing more bursaries and sponsoring courses and foundation degrees. There will be more company funding.”

He added: “Most business people recognise that they have a responsibility to do all they possibly can to support the [skills] system. The global skills challenge means we have all got to up our game considerably over the coming years and this is a shared agenda.”

Richard Brown, the former chief executive of the Council for Industry and Higher Education, said businesses could help to deliver training and provide skills directly through universities and colleges. He said: “Employers do a lot of work with the curriculum in terms of what’s needed, but they don’t roll up their sleeves and provide enough delivery of learning into colleges and universities.

“Most businesses develop their own staff, why don’t they deliver that directly as learning into colleges and universities. It’s in their long-term interests.”

The warning comes just hours after the University and College Union predicted 15,000 university jobs could be shed over the next few years as a result of the government’s budget cuts.

Other plans include using post-graduates rather than professors for teaching and postponing major building projects, according to the Guardian. Some institutions may be forced to ditch courses and close campuses.

The proposals have already provoked ballots for industrial action at many universities in the past week.

More than 200 job losses at King’s College, London, 700 at Leeds, 340 at Sheffield Hallam, and 300 at Hull, are expected.

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