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 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
- 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)
- Students as catalysts for city and regional growth (University of Glasgow)
For outlines of the research projects, visit: http://ewds.strath.ac.uk/impact and click on Current Projects.