Scottish universities generate £4.6bn for the economy

Scotland’s universities support over 72,900 jobs and add £4.6 billion to the Scottish economy, according to new analysis from Hatch Regeneris for the University and College Union (UCU).

The University of Dundee

The analysis found that between them, Scotland’s universities directly employ 36,850 people and support another 36,050 jobs across the country through their supply chains and the expenditure of staff and students.

Scotland is one of a number of areas analysed as part of the work looking at the economic contribution of universities. Between them, Scotland’s institutions bolstered their local economies to the tune of £4.6 billion last year through gross value added (GVA).

GVA is the key measure of economic contribution, capturing the total value of goods and services produced locally by the universities through their supply chains and the money spent by employees and students. The figures show how the universities are among the single largest contributors to local economies.

Recent YouGov polling for UCU highlighted how people recognised the importance of their local university on jobs and the economy. Two-thirds (66%) said they feared that there would be a negative impact on the local economy if student numbers dropped as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. While three-quarters (75%) feared a negative impact should a local university go bust.

A third of those in work (33%) said the local university was important to their own job. While over two-fifths (42%) said they knew someone who studied or worked at a local university, or whose employment depended at least in part on the university.

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, said: “This review shows how significant Scotland’s universities are to local economies. Universities are vitally important to our society, but their important role in the economy is often overlooked. This study shows that they have a huge impact in creating local jobs, supporting local businesses, and attracting people and organisations to the area.

“The Westminster government needs to come up with a comprehensive financial support package to support universities as anchor institutions in their local economies, so as universities are driving the recovery and not shedding jobs. Equally the Scottish Government – and the current Scottish Funding Council Review, needs to be empowering universities to continue to provide the education, research and knowledge exchange that supports our social, environmental and economic renewal.”

A report from UCU in April warned of a UK-wide £2.5bn loss in income for universities from a drop in student numbers, which would result in a £6bn hit for the economy, while a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies earlier this month predicted that the pandemic would leave some universities struggling to survive.

Last month, UCU launched its Fund The Future campaign, which calls for emergency support for universities to cover income lost due to the pandemic.

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