Global summit calls on G8 to recognise role of universities in economic recovery

The sixth Global University Summit, or GUS, has put the role of universities in economic regeneration firmly on the agenda for the G8 summit of world leaders in Northern Ireland later this month.

The two-day meeting in London from 29-30 May focused on the challenge of securing global growth and prosperity.

A set of nine recommendations, which the GUS hopes the G8 will take on board as the core group of nations struggles to find solutions to the enduring economic crisis, was agreed and circulated this week.

The GUS called on the G8 to recognise that the principles of international free trade also apply to ideas and knowledge. “The G8 should take action to allow easier movement of academics, researchers and university students between states,” it said.

Governments should commit to evaluating the impact of transnational education and developing a policy framework that leads to a better strategic understanding of the social and economic benefits.

The summit suggested that the G8 should outline what its leaders consider the 'Grand Challenges’ that universities can help address.

And it emphasised the role of universities in enhancing skills levels, calling on the G8 to recognise the increasing demand for higher-level skills in the world’s rising economies and to work with the G20 to expand freedom of movement across the world’s innovation centres.

It asserted the need for more investment in universities “to secure economic recovery and reap long-term rewards”, and stressed that the G8 should set goals that “reflect patience and a commitment to long-term investments to ensure that universities are given the time and resources to develop the innovation pathways and trusting relationships with business that will create jobs and wealth”.

The GUS suggested a new Global Commission be established to identify and promote best practice in university-business relations among G8 member nations and beyond. The GUS final recommendations are that the G8 should:
  • • Take the lead in establishing the highest international standards and market guidance on the value of international qualifications.
  • • Continue to work with transnational institutions to simplify the international patent infrastructure, which protects international property across national borders even as it simplifies the global flow of innovation that arises from research.
Professor Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick, who chaired the summit, said: “All the evidence shows that universities, from the great leading world research universities to the humblest polytechnics, technical colleges and other institutes, are now a key part of the engine room of long-term, sustainable economic growth and prosperity.

“The Global University Summit has provided an excellent opportunity, at an opportune moment, for university leaders, the international business community and policy-makers to consider how universities could achieve even more as economic actors.

“With participants from 30 countries, the summit debate has been framed in a way that transcends national boundaries as a way of making an even stronger contribution to reinvigorating battered economies and addressing major societal issues.”

The GUS is an annual invitation-only event that prepares a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations for the G8 summit.

Leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom will meet at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland for the G8 Summit from 17-18 June.