In the national panorama, according to Universities UK, a representative body for the higher education sector, UK universities contribute £31bn to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and directly provide 382,000 jobs throughout the UK.
Students living expenses are estimated to be a total of £7.9bn, most of which goes into the local economy.
The University of Sussex and the University of Brighton combined have emerged as one of the region’s largest industries after an independent report last week disclosed that the two universities combined inject £1.07bn into the UK economy.
The study based on the 2009 academic year, when the institutions had a combined student population of more than 32,700 and a total staff of 4,231, is the first to examine the economic effects of having two universities in the one city.
The results provided pleasing responses in a number of areas, significantly on a local level as £967m of the £1.07bn each year is spent directly in Brighton and Hove and the South East.
As a run on effect 12,000 jobs are created, not only from the living costs and entertainment based expenditure resultant from the influx of youths, but also in areas of infrastructure and research. The University of Sussex is in the midst of a campus development programme which includes new research, teaching, and residential buildings.
Alongside this, the University of Brighton is undergoing major renovations on accommodation facilities, a new sports hall and two new £20m-plus education and science buildings.
However, this is no erratic financial boom. The study indicates solid and stable growth. The University of Sussex Vice-Chancellor Michael Farthing pointed out that applications continue to rise significantly. The autumn term of 2010 alone saw a 30 percent increase in applications from UK students, nearly double the average national rise.
Applications from overseas students have similarly increased by 65 percent, Professor Farthing commenting that students “recognise the quality of what we offer at Sussex.”
Importantly, while the influx of international students continues to fuel the local economy, the majority of jobs produced will also fall on local hands due to the Visa restrictions and non-granted working conditions
Professor Julian Crampton, Vice-Chancellor at Brighton said: “Their impact is considerable.
“Student spending alone is significant and we are seeing a growing number of international students coming here, while the number of visitors attracted to the city because of the student population is also increasing. All this has a positive impact on local businesses and services.”
One third year English student at Sussex said: “I never expected the contribution to be so much. It really shows that the two universities help the community they work in. These results show that students are valuable to their local economies.”
Research measuring student satisfaction published in The Complete University Guide, shows that the Universities of Brighton and Sussex remain competitive with top universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, trailing by 0.1 and 0.3 points respectively.
These positive experiences encourage graduate professionals to remain in Brighton and Hove enhancing city resources.
Professor Crampton further said: “in these economically challenging times it is crucial to show how important universities are, both nationally and locally.”