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UK needs strong universities for growth, says Universities UK report

Aston University
Aston University

1 December 2011

Universities UK has published a report today (1st December 2011) highlighting the critical role universities will play in reviving economic growth across the country.

Coming after the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement earlier this week, Driving Economic Growth stresses the importance of maintaining UK universities’ prominent position in light of an increasingly competitive global environment and calls for continued investment in high level skills. Using a range of visual data and statistics it highlights that the UK’s future success depends on building up innovation and the knowledge economy. Countries showing high levels of innovation on average tend to invest more heavily in higher education and have more graduates in their populations.

Key facts from the report include:

Global competition

  • Competitor countries are investing heavily in higher education. China is projected to produce more graduates than the US and EU put together by 2020.

  • The three occupational groups (managers and senior officials, professional occupations, associate professional and technical) where graduates make up 50 per cent or more of workers are projected to account for nearly 80 per cent of new jobs to be created in the UK economy by 2017.

  • In the UK, 37 per cent of adults in 2009 had a higher education qualification, compared to 23 per cent in 1997. However the UK lags behind competitor countries both in levels of skills in the general population (10th in OECD) and potential for growth as measured by the proportion of graduates amongst the young population (6th in OECD).

  • The UK is more than three and a half times more productive compared to the world average, and more productive than the United States, Germany, Japan and China in the number of citations relative to investment in research and development. Continued investment is needed to maintain this.

Innovation

  • The rebalancing of the UK economy and the majority of future growth will rely on innovation-led industries. These sectors are dependent on graduate skills, with the proportion of graduates within the creative industries, for example, often twice as high than in the UK labour market as a whole.

  • Although innovative companies accounted for only six per cent of UK businesses between 2000 and 2005, they produced 54 per cent of jobs growth.

Connections made by universities

  • Universities also play a vital role in up-skilling and re-skilling the existing workforce. In 2009/10 there were 1.3 million UK-domiciled mature students studying at UK higher education institutions, making up 64 per cent of all home students in the UK.

  • The UK is a world leader for recruiting international students, but the UK’s market share is in danger as other countries focus heavily on recruitment. The UK is the second most popular destination for international students after the United States, but it saw its market share reduce from 10.8 per cent in 2000 to 9.9 per cent in 2009. It is critical that government policy is geared towards ensuring that universities can continue to attract the brightest and best from across the globe.

  • The global activities of UK Universities bring significant export earnings to the UK. In 2009 higher education brought in £7.9 billion to the economy and is projected to contribute at least £16.9 billion by 2025.




Notes to editors

  1. Driving Economic Growth is available download from Universities UK’s website.

  2. Driving Economic Growth is part of a new series of Universities UK publications, 'Higher Education in Focus'. The series gives an overview of the shape and impact of the UK’s higher education sector, using simple and innovative visualisation of data.

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