Universities have to respond to the needs of the economy and demands of students for modern and relevant programmes that will equip them for employment and challenges of the new globalised world, NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul has said.
"Universities have to be constantly aware that their existing limited resources must be used more efficiently to create ever higher values," Lord Paul, Chancellor of two leading British Universities said while participating in a debate on the Economic Impact of Universities in the House of Lords on Thursday evening.
"We have to respond to the needs of the economy and the demands of the students for modern and relevant programmes that will equip them for employment and the challenges of the new globalised world and economy," the Chancellor of Westminster and Wolverhampton Universities said.
He noted that the issue of economic impact of higher education would always require constant monitoring as this must be one of its main aims and would also influence how much money was spent on the universities.
Observing that the two universities headed by him had substantial businesses in their own right, Lord Paul said the University of Wolverhampton, based in the West Midlands, had total revenue of 129 million pounds last year.
The University itself spent 126 million pounds and attracted 3,385 non- UK students, who spent a further 16 million pounds off-campus.
The University provided 2,319 full-time equivalent jobs across a range of occupations. Overall, its activities generated 324 million pounds of output in the UK; around 220 million pounds of it in the region and 103 million pounds in the rest of the UK.
Its overseas revenue of 756 million pounds, plus off campus expenditure of overseas students and visitors generated 24 million pounds of export earnings.
Meanwhile, the University of Westminster which has 24,000 students in London, and employs 2,000 staff, has annual expenditure of 140 million pounds.
Its estimated contribution to the national economy was between 500 million pounds to 800 million pounds through expenditure on salaries, services, research and knowledge transfer.
He observed that both universities have strong records of widening participation and of producing economically active graduates.
At Westminster, 44 per cent of first degree students come from lower socio-economic groups, while at Wolverhampton the figure is fifty per cent.
"The University of Westminster is a major provider of part-time education with 10,000 part-time students, 40 per cent post-graduate.
It helps over 1,000 small and medium sized companies through the Westfocus Knowledge Exchange giving support in such growth areas as creative industries, information technology, materials and health," he said.
Wolverhampton also has more than 10,000 part-time students. Over the past six years it has delivered business support services to more than 5,000 businesses and 13,000 employees.
"Therefore, these two universities, strongly embedded in their regional communities, and with international activity, are making between them some 1 billion pounds contribution to their regional, national and international economies," Lord Paul said.
Lord Paul also congratulated the government on its new initiative which allows international students to stay in the UK for a year after graduating to gain work experience.
The initiative would be of great help to international students and their families. It would benefit the universities as it would attract more students from overseas, he said.
"It would particularly help universities like Westminster which is making great efforts to be a global institution."