University budget cuts 'may damage' UK businessesBudget cuts to higher education facilities may have a negative impact on businesses, because they have a "significant" effect on the economy at a regional and national level, according to an expert

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, suggested that rather than reducing spending at these institutions, Britain needs to be investing in them as they offer training and deliver the graduate skills employer organisations are looking for.

"If our economy is going to flourish in the future it is going to flourish as a knowledge economy and that is going to require high-level skills that graduates offer," she said.

Her comments came as a survey published by the organisation revealed only 20 per cent of people knew that there are more than 300 universities operating in the UK today.

Furthermore, only one in six respondents stated that they viewed these facilities as major employers.

Meanwhile, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service reports that the number of individuals applying to study in higher education in 2010 has risen by 22.9 per cent compared with a year ago.

By Hayley Edwards