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Welsh universities support one in 20 jobs in Wales

Welsh universities bring significant economic benefits to the whole of Wales – generating over £5 billion for the economy and one in 20 jobs across the country. These are the findings of a new independent report by Viewforth Consulting published today.

As well as through direct activities, universities also support the economy through their purchases of services and goods from other sectors and through staff and student spending power. Universities in Wales also attract substantial numbers of international students, generating £661 million for the Welsh economy– almost 12% of all Welsh service sector export earnings

Looking at the academic year 2019/20, the new research, commissioned by Universities Wales, found that Welsh universities generated:

  • £5.3bn of output
  • 61,722 jobs
  • one job for every two international students enrolled at university
  • 11.8% (£661 million) of all Welsh service sector export earnings
  • £2.8bn of Welsh GDP – equivalent to 4.2% of 2019 Welsh GDP.

Significantly, the report found that these benefits were not confined to those areas of the country with a university presence. The positive impacts of higher education are felt in communities throughout Wales – with 22% of the jobs and 20% of the GDP generated in local authority areas without a university.

This significant economic impact runs alongside the huge contribution universities make to society through life-changing research and educating tomorrow’s workforce, including public sector workers. Recent analysis predicted that 10,000 nurses, 4,000 medical specialists and 8,000 teachers will train at Welsh universities over the next five years.

Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Chair of Universities Wales, said:

“This report clearly illustrates what universities mean for Wales’ economy. From providing access to education and skills to working with business on cutting edge research and innovation, the work that our universities do is closely intertwined with the people and places of Wales.

“What is most notable about the findings of this report is not just the immediate economic impact of the activities our universities carry out, but how our institutions bring benefits right across local communities and, indeed, across Wales.

“As we rebuild and recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Welsh universities will continue working with partners across Wales, and embrace the challenges of a changing world. We remain firm in our ambition to grow and sustain a successful, enterprising higher education sector that draws in international expertise and excellence while delivering for the whole of Wales.”

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething MS said:

“I very much welcome this important report, which makes clear the strengths of Wales’ higher education institutions and their vital contribution to Welsh society and to our economy.

“In Wales, we value our universities as drivers of research and innovation, creating and distributing new knowledge which can transform how we live and work. They are a vital part of the skills pipeline, educating and training our people for the jobs of the future, and offering opportunities for lifelong skills development.

“Crucially, our universities are anchor institutions within our local communities, providing or contributing to the employment of 1 in 20 people in Wales, and playing a key role in local economies. I’m particularly pleased Wales outperforms the other UK nations on the proportion of graduate start-ups per capita – with an impressive variety of businesses emerging from Welsh universities. These businesses help us retain our talent, which is vital for Wales’ future economic prosperity.

“Through their teaching, research and innovation and civic engagement activities, universities have a crucial role to play in supporting our recovery plans and Programme for Government priorities. I look forward to working with them, as we work together to build a more prosperous, equal and greener Wales.”

Ursula Kelly, author of ‘The economic impact of higher education in Wales’, said:

“This report confirms the pivotal role that universities play in the Welsh economy, generating tens of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in output each year.

“These numbers demonstrate the way in which universities further individual and national prosperity, offer opportunities through employment and generate significant impact in their communities as local anchors for regional and community led economic growth.”

Dr David Blaney, Chief Executive of HEFCW said:

“This report shows how our higher education sector continues to play a crucial role as a generator of growth and economic and social prosperity.

“Universities in Wales are national assets with a mission to educate, train, research and innovate. They contribute to the development of a skilled and well-educated population to meet current and future needs and the impact of their research and innovation activities is recognised internationally.

“They are key players in their regions and across Wales, through their community-based activities and civic mission ambitions, and also maintain international links that help Wales become a partner of choice for international business and investment, and an attractive destination for international students and staff.

“It is vital that we continue to support our universities to enable them to make a full contribution to helping us navigate through the global, social and economic challenges of the future.”