08 Oct 2007

£3m study to reveal universities' impact on UK

The Open University is among a number of institutions undertaking the biggest ever study into the social and economic impact of higher education across the UK.

The three-year venture, worth £3 million, will see experts from 15 institutions joining forces to build a national picture of how universities affect life in regions throughout the UK. It will include nine areas of research, from regional transformation to community engagement, and whether students are catalysts for city and regional growth.

The programme is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in partnership with the Scottish, Welsh and English Higher Education Funding Councils and the Department of Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland.

Programme Coordinator Ursula Kelly, of the University of Strathclyde, said: "This major investment will allow us to measure and analyse the wider role of universities and colleges in the UK.

"Higher Education institutions play a significant role in regional and national economies - they are extensive businesses and employers, generating substantial export earnings. They are also an important source of innovation and influence the political, social, cultural and economic climate on the international scale.

"By analysing the impact of these activities and the processes through which universities generate benefits for wider society, we can inform policy and help all UK regions compete at the global level."

The individual projects, involving academics from across the UK, will examine four key themes:

- Higher education institutions and regional competitiveness
- Influence of students and graduates on regions
- Knowledge exchange between University and Industry
- Universities and community engagement

The overall project is made up of nine individual research projects across the UK, as follows:

- Higher Education and regional transformation: social and cultural perspectives (The Open University and University of East Anglia)

- University-industry knowledge exchange: Demand pull, supply push and the public space role of HEIs in the UK regions (University of Cambridge)

- Investigating business-university innovation linkages (Institute for Fiscal Studies and the University of Bristol)

- Students as catalysts for city and regional growth (University of Glasgow)

- The impact of economics and quality of life on graduate flows and subsequent innovative capacity of cities in the UK (Institute for Employment Studies)

- Higher education institution knowledge and its impact on regional competitiveness (University of Sheffield)

- Impact of research and innovation networks on regional competitiveness: The role of HEIs (Universities of Manchester, Wales, Cardiff and East Anglia)

- Universities and community engagement: learning with excluded communities (University of Newcastle)

- Overall impact of higher education institutions on regional economies (Universities of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Southampton and Glamorgan)

The programme is supported by the ESRC in partnership with the Scottish Funding Council, Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, The Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

For outlines of the research projects, visit: and click on Current Projects.

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