In May, I wrote about the growing links between universities and business and the rising  number of high profile partnerships and ventures between leading institutions and companies.

A recent report has underlined the major contribution that universities are making to the national economy in another way, specifically through their capital development programme.  The report was carried out by BiGGAR Economics for the Russell Group, the representative body for 24 of the UK’s leading research universities.  The report analysed some 69 development projects to be carried out by the Group’s members over the next four years and found that planned spending will amount to more than £9 billion over the period.  The spending covers a wide range of projects from new academic and research facilities to student accommodation through to regeneration and commercial schemes.  Significantly, the report also found that the longer term benefits of this level of investment include a forecast £44.3 billion of Gross Value Added for the UK economy over the next 25 years as well as the creation of some 98,500 new jobs, more than 50,000 of which will be permanent jobs beyond the five year construction period.

The report focuses on only one part of the UK’s higher education sector but the scale of the investment it analyses underlines the fact that the estate is one of a university’s most valuable assets, providing the learning and research environment for students and staff and playing a vital role in the growing competition between institutions to attract the best.  This competition is increasingly played out on a global stage, meaning that capital expenditure at this level represents not only a significant boost to the UK economy but also helps to enhance the long term future of our higher education sector.