The economic impact of universities, such as the University of Bath, is estimated at over £3.9 billion, according to latest figures. South West universities combined generated over 50,000 jobs, representing 2 per of the regional workforce, in 2012.

The report reveals the growing impact of higher education on the regional economy, with universities now acting as substantial enterprises, frequently among the largest employers in their localities.

It also suggests Universities bring in substantial income to the region, attracting students and staff from other parts of the country as well as internationally.

For the South West, the report found that in 2011–12:

  • Higher education institutions generated £1.7 billion. Through knock-on effects, they generated an additional £2.2 billion for other industries throughout the UK.
  • Universities in the South West generated 51,780 jobs in the region.
  • South West universities attracted 23,915 students from outside the UK to study in the region. They also attracted 70,225 students from other parts of the UK.
  • International revenue amounted to £288 million which, together with the estimated off-campus expenditure of international students (£270 million), represented a total of £558 million of export earnings for the region.
  • South West universities provided 20,522 full-time equivalent jobs across a range of occupations and skill levels. 22,207 full-time equivalent jobs were generated outside the universities, with most (19,677) based in the region.

The regional analysis was published alongside a UK-wide study on the impact of the higher education sector on the UK economy. The UK-wide study found that in 2011–12:

  • Higher education contributed 2.8 per cent of UK GDP in 2011 (up from 2.3 per cent in 2007-2008) and generated 757,268 full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs throughout the economy.
  • The sector as a whole generated an estimated £10.7 billion of export earnings for the UK. This includes the estimated £4.9 billion of off-campus expenditure by all international, non-UK (EU and non-EU) students attending UK universities.

Dr Jon Hunt, Deputy Director of the Research Development & Support Office (RDSO) at the University said: "It is clear from this report that universities deliver impact. It is well known that achieving impact from our teaching and our research is core business and a non-linear process.

“One way in which we achieve impact is in our approach to multi-channel partnership locally, nationally and internationally. Working with our West of England Local Enterprise Partnership has further refined this connectivity, affording a strong potential for leveraging our strategic relationships for local benefit.”

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, President of Universities UK, said: “It is clear that universities are making an increasingly significant contribution to the regional economy, both in terms of contribution to GDP and creating jobs. Universities also attract significant investment from overseas.

“While the study looked at only one aspect of economic impact, we should not forget also the major contribution to the economy from producing skilled graduates and generating ground-breaking research. Universities also produce significant non-economic benefits. They improve the life chances of individuals and also provide a social and cultural boost to communities through access to art, music, sports and other facilities.

“With the 2015 general election on the horizon, this report serves as a timely reminder to policy-makers of universities’ growing impact on local communities, jobs and the wider economy.”

Further information

  • Institutions included in the study for the South West: Bath Spa University; University of Bath; Arts University Bournemouth; Bournemouth University; University of Bristol; University of Exeter; University College Falmouth; University of Gloucestershire; University of St Mark & St John; Plymouth University; Royal Agricultural University; University of the West of England, Bristol

  • This summary report The Economic Impact of Higher Education Institutions in the English Regions looks at the specific impact of higher education on the economies of the nine regions of England: East of England; East Midlands; London; North East; North West; South East; South West; West Midlands; and Yorkshire and Humberside.

  • The regional report is published alongside a UK-wide report looking at The impact of universities on the UK economy.