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Universities and Economic Growth

Warwick graduation 2012

Introduction by Professor Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Warwick

The relationship between universities and economic growth is, in the UK and countries across the developed world, a topic of far greater significance to national higher education sectors and government than it was just a decade ago. To begin the Universities and Economic Growth conference in 2013, our now former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Nigel Thrift, introduced a blog series by a number of guest bloggers, invited to offer their thoughts on the future of higher education.

In Europe, there has long been a tradition of government subsidisation for higher education. However, the combination of steeply rising demand for student places from both domestic and international markets (in itself a signifier of globalised economic growth) and the economic downturn of the late 2000s has meant that some governments are having to rethink their model of investment in higher education.

Despite the fact that according to the OECD, until recently, only two countries have instigated real-term cuts in university funding (the UK and Romania sharing that dubious distinction), universities are now being asked by policy-makers to enunciate their relationship with economic growth in more explicit terms. This is not, however, something to be feared – as there is a clear causal link between higher education institutions and socio-economic prosperity. This argument is no longer solely predicated on the longer-term benefits of graduates to national economies (e.g. via graduate contributions to the exchequer), but is bolstered by a raft of more tangible evidence; with universities driving innovation, working with industry and leveraging their global connections to the benefits of their local communities.

The Global University Summit, which this year is being hosted by Warwick in London, is a perfect opportunity for this debate to transcend national boundaries. Higher education has, for centuries, been at the vanguard of globalism – with academics and students swapping ideas and innovations long before the current system of economic globalisation emerged. However, what is the future for this dynamic between universities and economic growth? Will the current (and undeniably expensive) model of tertiary education provision prove sufficient to match the inexorable growth in the global demand for learning?

All this and more will be explored in two days of discussion and debate between university leaders, international business executives and policy-makers. Following the debate, the Summit will formally adopt a declaration of policy recommendations that will be submitted to the G8 summit of world leaders in June.

However, we begin the debate here, on the Knowledge Centre, with a series of thought-pieces and blogs written by Summit contributors and participants in the run-up to the main-event in May.

There are some summit resources, below:

Declaration of the 2013 Global Universities Summit to the G8

Universities and Economic Growth (Pre-Summit Report)

The Summit in the Media

Further Resources:

  • Audio presentations by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London; the Rt. Hon. Dr Vince Cable MP; Lord Robert Skidelsky and Dr Nemat Shafik, Deputy Managing Director, IMF
  • The future of education: Guest blogs by Alex Bols (1994 Group), Professor John Holmwood (Campaign for the Public University), Toni Pearce (National Union of Students/NUS), Louis Coiffait (The Pearson Think Tank), Sir Michael Barber (Pearson), Professor Dame Julia King (Aston University), David Ward (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Anthony McLaren (QAA), Michael Peak (British Council), Simon Nelson (FutureLearn), Neil Carberry (CBI), Dave Kochalko (Thomson Reuters), Professor Eric Thomas (University of Bristol), Sir John O’Reilly (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills/BIS), Srikanth Iyengar (Infosys Limited), Dame Helen Alexander (University of Southampton), Simon Bradley (EADS), Dr Joanna Newman (UK Higher Education International Unit), Dr Wendy Piatt (Russell Group), Dr Dirk Jan van den Berg (Delft University of Technology), Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz (University of Cambridge), Dr Nemat Shafik (IMF), Dirk Van Damme (OECD)
  • University of Warwick blogs by Professor Lawrence Young, Ken Sloan, Professor Mark Taylor, Professor Tim Jones and Dr Richard Hutchins.

GUS pre-summit declarationDeclaration of the 2013 Global Universities Summit to the G8

The 2013 Global University Summit, hosted by the University of Warwick in London on 29 and 30 May, concluded with the presentation of its Declaration to Dominic Martin, Director of the G8 Presidency Unit. Containing a series of commitments and policy recommendations discussed over the two days by international vice-chancellors, business leaders and policymakers from organisations such as the IMF and OECD; the Summit Declaration asks the G8 to:

  • Take action to allow easier movement of academics, researchers and university students between states.
  • Invest more in universities to ensure economic growth
  • Simplify and open-up the international patent infrastructure to allow greater innovation from research.


Universities and Economic Growth - pre-summit reportUniversities and Economic Growth
The Global University Summit pre-summit report

This report provides an overview of the themes and issues to be explored by the 2013 Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in London in May 2013.

Incorporating the thoughts and contributions of many of the Summit’s exceptional line-up of speakers and discussants, the report sets the scene for two days of vibrant and challenging debate on the topic of ‘universities and economic growth’.


GUS conference delagates

The Global University Summit in Pictures

A gallery of images from the 2013 Summit is available to view online. The gallery includes pictures of the speakers (including Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, Rt. Hon. Dr Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), Professor Lord Robert Skidelsky, former Chairman of the Social Market Foundation and Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Broadcast Journalist and presenter of the Summit) as well as guests who attended.

The Summit Audio Series

Boris JohnsonBoris Johnson, Mayor of London


Vince CableRt. Hon. Dr Vince Cable MP


Lord Robert SkidelskyLord Robert Skidelsky


Dr Nemat ShafikDr Nemat Shafik, Deputy Managing Director, IMF



The Pre-Summit Blog Series

Alex Bols John Holmwood Toni Pearce
Alex Bols
1994 Group
Professor John Holmwood
Campaign for the Public University
Toni Pearce
National Union of Students (NUS)
Louis Coffait Michael Barber Lawrence Young
Louis Coiffait
Head of Research
The Pearson Think Tank
Sir Michael Barber
Chief Education Strategist
Professor Lawrence Young
Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research
(Life Sciences and Medicine) and Capital Development
University of Warwick
Julia King Ken Sloan David Ward
Professor Dame Julia King
Aston University
Ken Sloan
Registrar and Chief Operating Officer
University of Warwick
David Ward
Interim Chancellor
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Anthony McClaran

Photograph: Michael Peak. Click to read full story

Photograph link: Simon Nelson. Click to read full story
Anthony McLaren
Chief Executive
Michael Peak
Research Manager, Education and Society
British Council
Simon Nelson
Neil Carberry David Kochalko Mark Taylor
Neil Carberry
Director for employment and skills
Dave Kochalko
Vice-President of Strategy
and Business Development
Thomson Reuters
Professor Mark Taylor
Warwick Business School
University of Warwick
 Eric Thomas  Photograph: Sir John O’Reilly  Srikanth Iyengar
Professor Eric Thomas
University of Bristol
Sir John O’Reilly
Director General, Knowledge
and Innovation
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
Srikanth Iyengar
Vice-President and UK Head
Infosys Limited

Tim Jones Dame Helen Alexander Simon Bradley
Professor Tim Jones
Pro Vice-Chancellor: Research (Science and Medicine)
University of Warwick
Dame Helen Alexander
University of Southampton
Simon Bradley
Image. Jo Newman Dr Wendy Piatt Image. DJ van de Berg
Dr Joanna Newman
UK Higher Education International Unit
Dr Wendy Piatt
Director General and Chief Executive
Russell Group
Dr Dirk Jan van den Berg
Delft University of Technology
Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz Richard Hutchins Dr Nemat Shafik
Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz
University of Cambridge
Dr Richard Hutchins
Director, Jaguar Land Rover Programmes
University of Warwick
Dr Nemat Shafik
Deputy Managing Director
Image. Dirk Van Dam. Click to read full post.

Dirk Van Damme
Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress division

Vince Cable
The Summit in the Media

The Global University Summit recieved media interest preceeding, during and following the event. A selection of this coverage is available to view on the Knowledge Centre.

May 2013

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