Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, praised the inter-disciplinary approach of Alliance MBS during a debate with University President and Vice-Chancellor Dame Nancy Rothwell on the role of universities in UK productivity.
Speaking during a discussion directly after the official opening of the new AMBS building, chaired by Sky business presenter Ian King, Haldane said the completion of the redeveloped business school “could not have come at a better time”.
“It is really needed. We know that as a country we fare poorly when it comes to management skills, one of the big factors contributing to the UK’s productivity problem. I particularly welcome the School’s inter-disciplinary approach. That is crucial for our economy in terms of tackling some of the biggest societal issues.”
Haldane said the higher education sector was one of the jewels in the crown of the UK economy and it was very clear that UK universities punched well above their weight. “There is also strong evidence that the very presence of a university in a region does a lot to boost income both in that region, and to surrounding regions as well. The reason why universities boost incomes is precisely because of their boosting impact on productivity within that region. We tend to find that where productivity leads, pay and incomes then follow, and universities are no exception.”
As such he said it made “perfect sense” for universities to be centre stage both in terms of our national industrial strategy, and also in terms of local industrial strategies.
However he said that universities, like all institutions, will need to adapt to the fourth industrial revolution and there would be an even greater focus in the future both on multi-disciplinary courses, and on knowledge and tech transfer to help reach “misfiring” UK companies. “The truth is that UK plc does very well at the ‘R’ in R&D, and very poorly at the ‘D’.”
Haldane added that, as the recent Augar review of post-18 education had made clear, one mustn’t lose sight of the further education sector and the 50% of the UK workforce that doesn’t have a degree.
“That too needs re-energising, not as a substitute for higher education but very much as a complement. If we are to tackle the UK’s productivity problem we’ll need all of our education engines to be firing.”
Role of business school
Dame Nancy said there was a key role for the Business School to play in helping to further boost productivity in the region.
“Greater Manchester by many measures is thriving. There is a lot of growth in the city and many graduates now want to stay. Indeed just a few years ago a third of our graduates left the region, now over half stay, many of them starting their own businesses.
“But the productivity of the north of England, the productivity of Greater Manchester, is still well below where it should be and still well below the national average. A business school of this scale can certainly do a great deal. You can see from the figures that in Greater Manchester there are many, many businesses with no skills whatsoever in accounting, business planning, or forms of digital analysis. We can help them and our students can help them.”