This report summarises the findings of research commissioned by Universities UK into the role and
contribution of higher education in the UK’s creative economy. The research gathered evidence from
existing data and research as well as case study analysis and contributions from industry, higher
education and public sector partners.
The findings demonstrate not only the crucial role that higher education plays in the UK creative
economy, but also why that contribution will become increasingly important to economic recovery.
During the latter stages of writing this report, it became evident, through the Independent Review of
Higher Education Funding and Student Finance (Browne Review) and the subsequent announcements
in the UK Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, that it is likely that all direct public funding
for teaching in universities, at least in England, could be withdrawn from the majority of subjects
which support the creative industries. The importance of the creative industries to the economy, and
the importance of the higher education sector in underpinning the strength of the creative industries,
means that the arguments presented in this report are even more timely and relevant.
Addressing the barriers to successful engagement
Recommendation 1: Governments in the UK and the devolved nations should recognise the critical
importance of the creative industries to future competitiveness and the key role of higher education
in supporting their growth. This means according the creative industries policy emphasis in line
with their economic importance, and investing to ensure that the UK maintains its strong global
position in these industries. This investment should be prioritised through a clearly articulated
and aligned strategy.
Recommendation 2: In the forthcoming higher education white paper (due to be published in spring
2011), the Government should resist the narrow view that STEM subjects represent the exclusive
route to economic success, and should instead recognise the fact that STEM and creativity are
inextricably linked – successful knowledge economies need strength in both. In practice, this
means that the disciplines which support the creative economy should be identified as priority
subjects and attract public investment for teaching in a post-Browne environment. This is
particularly urgent in England and Wales, but is equally relevant in the other devolved nations.
Recommendation 3: Key industry bodies should ensure that the creative industries are included
in their engagement with government in the UK and the devolved nations.
Recommendation 4: Government and the research councils should ensure adequate funding
for research in disciplines relevant to the creative industries. This should include social science
research into the nature of the creative economy. Research assessment mechanisms should also
ensure that the outputs and impacts of creative industries-related research are fully recognised
and rewarded. Indeed, the REF expert panels, reporting to HEFCE on the outcomes of the impact
pilot exercise, have recommended that a broader definition of impact be adopted and that the
initial list of impacts need to be developed further, especially for the arts and humanities.
Recommendation 5: Universities should work to address the structural barriers to
multidisciplinary working. There is no single solution to these issues and different institutions
will need to find the approach that works best for their circumstances.
Recommendation 6: Higher education should work to overcome some of the process barriers to
working with the creative industries, particularly relating to the nature and speed of interaction.
This will require changes to the ways in which academic performance is rewarded to allow
more interaction with creative (and other) SMEs, as well as a willingness to create more flexible
organisational structures to support this. This will also require policy support from the national
and devolved governments and from the funding councils.
Recommendation 7: Encouragement and support for university-business interaction should be
a priority issue for the new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in England, and for the main
economic development agencies in the devolved nations.
Recommendation 8: Intermediary bodies such as trade associations and industry groups (including
Sector Skills Councils) should work to raise awareness of the benefits to industry of working with
higher education across all forms of knowledge exchange activity.
Recommendation 9: Sector Skills Councils should work in partnership with the higher education
sector and industry to articulate and translate the skills needs of employers, broker relationships,
increase engagement and facilitate co‑investment.
Recommendation 10: Universities should continue to develop flexible policies towards
intellectual property rights so that this is not a barrier to effective knowledge exchange with
the creative industries.
Investing in opportunity
Recommendation 11: Third-stream funding, in particular from the Higher Education Innovation
Fund (HEIF), has been critical in supporting knowledge exchange between universities and the
creative industries. Government and the funding councils across the UK should ensure ongoing
support for these third-stream activities, for example through a reformed HEIF, to continue
to build innovative solutions to knowledge exchange.
Recommendation 12: There should be increased investment into multidisciplinary research
projects across the three main research councils with interests in the creative economy – the Arts
and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). In particular AHRC should be
resourced to participate fully in new cross-council initiatives.
Recommendation 13: Universities should continue to develop multidisciplinary education at
postgraduate levels, bringing together creativity, technology and business. The links between
the undergraduate and postgraduate provision are such that the viability of this multidisciplinary
activity is threatened by the anticipated withdrawal of public funding for creative (and business)
disciplines at undergraduate level. The Government should consider these issues as it reforms
future higher education funding in England following the Browne Review.
Recommendation 14: Universities should structure new ways of interacting with the disparate
sectors that make up the creative industries. Networks and subscription-based models offer
potential to aggregate industry demand and are worth considering, not least because they
can unlock the willingness of SMEs to contribute themselves.
Recommendation 15: Working through the Sector Skills Councils and other industry bodies and
trade associations, the creative industries should build productive working relationships with
higher education and contribute to the development of relevant educational provision.
Recommendation 16: Universities must continue to develop world-beating talent, but with
increasing focus on industry exposure, employability and entrepreneurship. This will mean
action on the development of consistent standards for industry experience and entrepreneurship
education as well as continuing to engage employers in new models of interaction that deliver
Recommendation 17: Creative businesses should work in partnership with universities to
develop opportunities for industry placements, live briefs and practical experience for students
at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Recommendation 18: Universities should continue to develop high-level and affordable CPD
for the creative industries through more flexible, tailored courses that meet industry needs.
Recommendation 19: There is scope for industry to work with universities and public sector
partners to build regional creative industries clusters and support innovation. Although higher
education is a powerful and natural partner for this, the support of industry and the relevant
public bodies (for example LEPs) is essential.
Recommendation 20: There should be ongoing support for the Skillset Media Academies, with
Skillset continuing to play a coordinating role on strategic network development.