‘More graduates needed to boost economy’

7 Aug 18

The UK economy needs more graduates to increase productivity and innovation, according to an advocacy organisation for universities. 

University graduates will be crucial to delivering the ‘fourth industrial revolution’,  which will be driven by automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and digital technology, according to Universities UK.

The group’s Solving future skills challenges report, published yesterday, said this revolution will increase the complexity of work and a rapid pace of change will create even stronger demand for those with transferrable skills developed at university across all subjects.

The report also said that the challenges posed by Brexit and an ageing population were creating rising demand for qualifications above ‘level 4’, which included undergraduate degrees, Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas.

In 2016, 440,000 new professional jobs were created, yet there were only 316,690 UK-based graduates, leaving a recruitment gap of 123,310 - more than double the gap in 2015.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “The UK economy and society needs more graduates.

“Educating more people of all ages at university would grow our economy faster, by increasing productivity, competitiveness, and innovation.

“The analytical and learning skills developed at university help people adapt in the rapidly changing jobs market.”

Analysis by Universities UK found that the percentage of young people from England entering higher education has reached 49%, but there has been a steady decline in part-time and mature study numbers in recent years.

Jarvis called on the government to develop new policies to make part-time studies more appealing and encourage lifelong learning among an ageing population.

Edwin Morgan, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, a membership group for business leaders, said: “Not being able to find people with the right skills consistently comes up as a top issue affecting our members, so universities have a crucial role to play in filling this gap.”

A Department for Education spokesperson, said: “Graduates provide employers with the skills they need for a future economy, and there are clear financial benefits for graduates including a premium on earnings.

“But for those who choose not to go to university, we’re introducing gold-standard T Levels to provide technical education on a par with our reformed A levels, and have driven up the quality of apprenticeships through new employer-led standards.”

The Public Accounts Committee recently said that the UK higher education system was not offering value for money.

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