Elite universities having biggest economic impact in the North

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SPENDING on buildings and facilities by top universities will have a major impact on the economy in the North of England creating 30,000 permanent new jobs, a report has claimed.

Research says that a £9 billion investment on capital projects by elite research-led Russell Group universities over the next four years will add £44 billion to the nation’s economy over the next 25 years.

It also suggests that the biggest economic impact will be felt in the North of England.

The new report looks at the spending plans over the next five years for each of the 24 universities in the group - which includes Leeds, Sheffield and York along with Oxford and Cambridge.

It identified plans for £9 billion worth of spending - similar to the level of investment made in the London 2012 Olympics.

It is estimated that the work will support more than 98,000 new jobs including around 37,800 temporary jobs during the five-year construction period.

Of these almost a third of the new jobs will be created in the North of England.

In the long term 30,067 jobs could be created in the North by 2036/37 the report forecasts.

The university spending should generate £4.89 for the UK economy for every £1 invested.

The capital spending plans in Yorkshire include a new £81m engineering building at Sheffield University.

Leeds University is creating a new library on its city centre campus following its biggest ever donation of £9m from Lord Laidlaw.

The report into Russell Group spending highlights how the money being invested by universities comes from a range of sources including government grants for capital, income from research and teaching, private donations and borrowing.

The investment ranges from new student accommodation, medical research facilities and science labs to new office space and facilities to help start-up businesses and universities work better together.

The Russell Group’s director-general Dr Wendy Piatt said: “Russell Group universities are engines of growth for the British economy.

“Not only do they lead the way in teaching and research – but they’re also a driving force behind the creation of new jobs, new opportunities for start-up companies and urban renewal in our cities.

“The Government have recognised much of this contribution but we would urge them to step up big capital investment in our universities.

“We will keep investing on behalf of our students and academics but the rest of the world are snapping at our heels and spending money to match their ambition. We must do the same.”

The report, by Biggar Economics, calculates the long term benefits of Russell Group university investment by looking at information gathered from the 24 universities about 69 projects where they are investing money in the next four years. Researchers have calculated the “quantifiable impact” of these projects by looking at three areas.

Firstly short-term investment impacts – such as jobs created in the construction industry.

They also assessed the “long-term operational impacts” such as increased spending from the extra university staff and students based in the new facilities.

And finally they attempted to measure the “long-term catalytic impacts” – such as medical breakthroughs, more productive students, and better research competitiveness as a result of the university spending.