HC Deb 14 December 1983 vol 50 cc981-3
6. Mr. Burt

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will take measures to improve links between industry and education.

Mr. Tebbit

My Department already promotes such links, through, for example, the Schools Council industry project, the service and technology regional organisations, the British schools technology programme and other initiatives.

Mr. Burt

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the shift in emphasis from traditional manufacturing industries to service industries has fallen particularly hard on areas such as mine, which have been centres of excellence for traditional manufacturing industry. Will he assure the House that he will bear the problems of such areas in mind when he is considering the links between industry and education? Will he pay particular attention to those important initiatives of local authorities and to the partnerships between local authorities and the Government in promoting such schemes to assist those links for industry as it is now and for the new industries of the future?

Mr. Tebbit

I am pleased to know that there is a proposal for an ITEC in my hon. Friend's constituency. He will be aware of the new technical and vocational education initiative to re-establish high standards of technical education for youngsters between 14 and 18 and of other initiatives taken by my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Education and Science, and for Employment and, indeed, by the MSC. We are aware of the problems of reorientating education in our schools to ensure that youngsters receive an education suitable for the different job opportunities in the future.

Mr. Jim Callaghan

In his endeavours to improve the links between industry and education, will the Secretary of State put pressure on his colleague the Secretary of State for Education and Science to restore the UGC cuts to Salford university, which is closely linked with and allied to industry, so that it can continue its excellent work?

Mr. Tebbit

I am aware of the good work that has been carried out at Salford, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the distribution of funds is primarily a matter for the UGC and not for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. If the UGC has picked Salford to take an unfair share of the burden, that is a bone that the hon. Gentleman should pick with the UGC. I have no doubt that many right hon. and hon. Members might differ at times from the UGC about the direction in which it allocates funds. I hope that the UGC will be conscious of the need to support the universities which have had outstanding successes in the new technologies and in technical and vocational education.

Mr. Batiste

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the principal difficulties in developing the links between education—particularly institutes of higher education—and industry is a lack of awareness in industry and in small businesses of precisely what is available in the universities and the institutes of higher education? Will he consider, perhaps through the medium of the British technology group, making available to the universities a small promotional budget to advertise what they can offer to industry?

Mr. Tebbit

I take note of what my hon. Friend says. I agree that there is a need to educate business men in these matters. I should have thought that the universities would see that it is strongly in their interests to accomplish that education and would go out and get working on it themselves as part of the activities for which they are normally paid, rather than expect extra money to do what really is part of the job of every member of the staff of a university.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson

Is the Secretary of State aware of the excellent research programmes undertaken by the Science and Engineering Research Council? Will he have a word with the chairman of the SERC to see whether the programmes can be more closely monitored with a view to seeing how many of them—for example, those on second generation robotics — lead to industrial applications in manufacturing in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Tebbit

Yes, the hon. Gentleman makes a good point. We try to monitor how effective research and development programmes are in getting new products on to the shelves, which is what matters. We shall not let up on that. The one point that should be made above all is that links are a two-way process. I hope that those in business, in commerce and industry, will make sure that they devote some of their time to developing these things as well as expecting that schools, universities and other institutes of education and learning will do their part.