Lord Mandelson made three things clear to British businesses in his speech on the future of higher education in October. First, that to survive and prosper, British businesses need to value and foster education, research and innovation; second, that British universities are still among the best in the world; third, that to get the best out of them, British business must engage with universities to at least the same extent as its counterparts in competitor countries such as the US, Germany and Japan.
Like many other business school deans, I believe that the British economy, within the framework of the European Union, will survive and prosper through high-quality production and high-quality services. Success in research and development, with innovation and creativity in all spheres, will be critical. None of these things can be achieved without continual investment in the education system, from primary through to university level. Britain has always boasted a strong education system topped by world class universities. The importance of this is not really in question, but to what extent can British businesses and universities work together? How can we build an effective alliance?
Often, business-university alliances are seen too narrowly as a one-way transfer of knowledge from the latter to the former. But what's on the table is far broader than this. Setting aside the fact that higher education is a major import-export industry for the UK, with a built-in trade surplus, much else can be achieved.