Calls for university investment as figures reveal region's institutes contribute £9bn to economy

The chancellor of the Exchequer is being urged to invest in universities across Yorkshire and the Humber as research reveals they contribute £9bn to the region’s economy.

In January, the Government said that further reforms to the student finance system, including minimum entry requirements to universities, would be “considered” ahead of the next Comprehensive Spending Review. Pictured: The University of York

The Government will hold its Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) later this autumn, with sectors vying for further investment urged to submit evidence as to why funding is needed.

Some 74,000 jobs across Yorkshire and the Humber are supported by universities, the research by Frontier Economics found.

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Universities UK, which represents 140 higher education establishments, is calling on the Government to maintain its spending per student.

It is also recommending the Government recommits to spending 2.4 per cent of GDP on research and development projects.

The CSR takes place around once every three years and this year will be delivered at the time as the Autumn Budget, set for October 27.

It comes as reports suggested that Ministers were considering lowering the threshold where graduates repay their student loans.

Currently, most graduates who began university before autumn 2012 pay nine per cent of the amount they earn over the threshold of £2,274 monthly before tax.

For graduates who began university in 2012 or later, the repayment threshold is £1,657.

The Financial Times reported that the Government plans to lower the salary level at which graduates start repaying their loans in a bid to save the Treasury money on the student finance system.

The University and College Union warned against “loading more debt onto students” as it described the proposal as “regressive”.

In January, the Government said that further reforms to the student finance system, including minimum entry requirements to universities, would be “considered” ahead of the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

But an Institute for Fiscal Studies report last week warned that lowering the repayment threshold for student loans would hit graduates with average earnings the hardest, with the National Union of Students also coming out against the plans.

Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, said: “The University of Leeds has a strong track record for research and development that improves lives around the world and drives down global inequalities. But we combine our global outlook with a keen awareness of our impact on our regional community and its economy.

“As Leeds’ third largest employer and the region’s largest research-intensive university we directly support 14,000 jobs and, based on the most recent assessment, contribute some £1.3 billion each year to the UK economy, with students adding almost £200m of international revenue to the Leeds city region a year.”

Professor Charlie Jeffery, Vice-Chancellor of the University of York said: “As we recover from the pandemic and a challenging global economic environment, the role of our universities in helping our communities has never been more important.

“A prime example of that is our BioYorkshire initiative - our 10-year vision to harness the biotechnology expertise of our scientists and partners, and act as a launchpad for green, inclusive economic growth across the region.