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Economic Downturn

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

12. What assessment he has made of the role of higher education in assisting individuals and businesses during the economic downturn. (287062)

Universities play an important role in helping businesses and individuals through the downturn, but also in securing our future success in a knowledge-driven economy. The Higher Education Funding Council for England has a £60 million economic challenge fund, which is expected to help 11,000 business and 50,000 individuals through a range of activities.

I am grateful for that reply and I am sure that my right hon. Friend would wish to pay tribute to the university of Derby at Buxton, which is co-ordinating work with nine major companies in the food industry to promote and co-ordinate apprenticeships and the upskilling of the work force. Will he recommend that regional Ministers throughout the country follow the example of the east midlands in taking the university sector on board as members of the regional economic cabinet?

My hon. Friend is right. I was pleased that universities acted so swiftly to ensure that they were plugged in and engaged with businesses regionally. It is right to say that the university of Derby has provided an excellent example. As well as the project to which my hon. Friend referred, there is the economic challenge fund bid, which is £2.27 million worth of support for the unemployed in the area, working with industry and business. The university of Derby’s corporate project is also about engaging with highly skilled people in the area. I congratulate the university, and I also congratulate the sector on what it is doing to support businesses in a difficult time.