As Chair of Universities Wales, I was delighted to launch our new report on the Economic Impact of Higher Education in Wales last week. It’s been more than two years since the last independent study and in the intervening period it is evident that the contribution Welsh universities make to the economic fortunes of our nation has continued to grow. This latest study shows that in 2013, our universities generated some £2.4bn of Welsh GVA (equivalent to 4.6% of the Welsh total) and created almost 50,000 jobs in Wales (3.4% of the Welsh total). Overall, Welsh universities, together with the expenditure of off-campus spending by students and visitors, generated £4.6 billion of output in Wales.
Additionally, for the first time the authors, Viewforth Consulting, included a new extended analysis of the economic impact of Welsh universities across all the regions of Wales. I find this regional benefit analysis particularly interesting because it has often been noted by some that universities only have an economic benefit on the area within which they operate. This report, however, shows that economic impact flows further afield to areas that do not have a university through “ripple effects”, with a quarter of both 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. This report demonstrates that Welsh universities are important to local economies in every region across Wales.The event to launch this report, held at the National Assembly for Wales last week, was a great opportunity for us, as a group of vice-chancellors, to highlight how the higher education sector is one of Wales’ most valuable industries. We create tens of thousands of jobs, stimulate economic activity in local communities and help drive the wider Welsh economy.However, we have been through some challenging times both as universities and as a country. Funding has been, and I believe will continue to be, tight across the board. But I do not believe that these times are dismal for higher education in Wales. The new report clearly demonstrates the positive impact that universities have on the economy. It is therefore more important than ever that together with the Welsh Government, we work on finding solutions to the short-term challenges facing the sector that will enable our universities to sustain and build on the success we have had.