A newly updated study by higher education experts shows that universities in Wales are playing a crucial role in powering the Welsh economy. Welsh universities, together with the expenditure of off-campus spending by students and visitors, generated £4.6 billion of output in Wales. The higher education sector is shown to be one of Wales’ most valuable industries, creating tens of thousands of jobs and stimulating other economic activity in local communities, as well as the wider Welsh economy.
The report by Viewforth Consulting follows on from a similar study published in 2013, but this time focuses on data from 2014 and uses a new and more precise methodology. The report concludes that higher education is a major economic actor and industry in itself and generates some £2.4bn of Welsh GVA (equivalent to 4.6% of the Welsh total) and creates almost 50,000 jobs in Wales (3.4% of the Welsh total).
Additionally, for the first time this work includes an extended analysis of the economic impact of Welsh universities across all the regions of Wales. This work found that every area of Wales benefits from the ‘knock-on’ effects of Welsh universities, regardless of whether they have a local university presence. Through the construction of a Wales-specific model, Viewforth Consulting have been able to demonstrate how economic impact flows further afield from areas that do not have a university through “ripple effects”, with a quarter of the GVA (£597m) and jobs (11,783) created by Welsh universities being in parts of Wales that do not have a university on their doorstep.
Other key findings of the report also underline the increasing importance that Welsh universities play on a global scale. The higher education industry is now responsible for 4.6% of all Welsh exports at £600m, with increasingly diverse and multicultural campuses bringing additional international visitors to Wales, which in turn increases the nation’s profile overseas.
Co-author of the research, Dr Ursula Kelly of Viewforth Consulting said: “Since the publication of our initial report, we can see that the importance of higher education to the Welsh economy has grown even further. This study underlines the fact that while Welsh universities are of considerable importance to Wales through supporting economic development through research and jobs, the universities are also a major economic contributor in themselves through generating output, jobs and GVA.”
Chair of Universities Wales and Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, Professor Colin Riordan said: “It is important to recognise that universities are assets – that means not simply resources to deliver programmes of study but major generators of investment and I’m pleased with the findings of today’s report, which show that the contribution Welsh universities make to the economic fortunes of our nation has continued to grow. The economic, social and cultural impact of our universities should rightly be celebrated, and we hope that the report underlines what universities can contribute not just to the economy of Wales, but the very fabric of our nation.
"It is more important than ever that together with the Welsh Government, we work on finding the solutions to the short-term challenges facing the sector that will enable our universities to sustain and build on the economic contribution highlighted the report."