The Confederation of British Industry has called for businesses to work with universities to support students studying technology and other key subjects.
IT, science, technology and foreign languages, were “relevant to business”, the organisation said in a new report on higher education.
The report also called for the government to drop its target of getting 50 percent of school leavers into university and for an increase in tuition fees to fund universities.
Richard Lambert, CBI director general, said that “maintaining a world-class higher education system is vital to the UK’s future competitiveness”.
"Business should engage more with universities, both financially and intellectually,” he added. “More firms should help design and pay for courses for the benefit of the current and future workforce, and more firms should offer students practical work experience.”
He added that in return for the extra investment of time and money, “business will want to see more emphasis given to certain subjects, such as science, technology, engineering and maths”.
In the Stronger together – businesses and universities in tough times report, the CBI notes that the proportion of UK graduates taking science, technology, engineering and maths degrees has declined by 20 percent since 2000. It said major steps were needed to ensure more people take these subjects after the age of 16.
Sam Laidlaw, chairman of the CBI education task force and chief executive at Centrica, said: "Effective collaboration between the higher education sector, business and government will be critical to the UK’s economic recovery and sustainable international competitiveness. Business must also make a sustained effort in supporting higher education."
The thirteen business members of the task force made commitments to improving opportunities for students of different subjects, including a 100 place graduate programme at Microsoft, with a starter bonus to help pay off tuition fees, and a 60-place graduate programme at Centrica.