A recent report found that the University of St Andrews now contributes more than £484million a year to the Scottish economy – an increase of £179 million since 2008-09.
The independent report, carried out by BiGGAR economics, found that despite being one of the smallest universities in Scotland, turnover has increased by an impressive 16% over three years.
The ‘Economic Impact of the University of St Andrews 2011-12’ report found that for every £1 of public teaching and research grant invested in St Andrews, the University now returns £12.10 to the Scottish economy.
Between 2008-09 and 2011-12 ‘funding body grants’ reduced by almost 3% in cash terms and more than 10% in real terms to £40.1 million. Despite this, the University has seen levels of growth and their reliance on this funding has decreased as it now accounts for less than a quarter of the University’s turnover. University leaders say that this demonstrates that Scotland’s universities are generators of significant wealth in local and national economies, rather than simply consumers of public funds.
As international students now make up around one third of the student body, they have provided an important source of income for the University. There has been an increase of almost £13 million in three years from international students. This is an increase of 57%.
The report also investigated the impacts of core university spending, staff and student spending, business and spin-out activity, capital spend, tourism and community projects in financial year 2011-12.
With 7,777 full time students at the university, student spending has many benefits for the local economy. St Andrews students contributed £53.9 million and supported 1,791 full-time jobs in Scotland through direct spending, part-time work and international students coming to Scotland and staying on to work. In St Andrews itself, the student impact was £36.4million a year, supporting 1,401 jobs.
Graduates of the University also contribute millions of pounds to the Scottish economy every year. The study looked at the ‘graduate premium’ – the longer term effects of the University’s graduates on productivity in the economy. The lifetime graduate premium of a single year’s cohort of graduates of the University was £15 million in the St Andrews economy and £95.9 million in the Scottish economy.
The University is still one of the biggest employers in the local area. The University directly employs 2,355 members of staff and supports 4,586 jobs in the town. Education provides 37% of employment in the area. The University also contributes to tourism, a sector which provides 29% of employment in St Andrews.
The number of jobs that the University now supports across Scotland has fallen from 9,197 in 2008-09 to 8,913 last year, which the University says is due to general changes in the economy and particularly a requirement to spend more on rising external utilities charges, even although its energy consumption has flat-lined for the last two years.
BiGGAR economics have also recently completed similar studies for Glasgow Caledonian University and Herriot Watt University. St Andrews compares very favourably with these reports. Glasgow Caledonian University, had 16, 131 students in the year 2011-12. For every £1 of funding given to GCU from the Scottish Funding Council, they returned £7.20 to the Scottish economy.
Derek Watson, Chief Operating Office for the St Andrews, explained that universities are vital to the Scottish economy during the recession. He said: “Our primary mission is and always will be the pursuit of excellence in education and research, but this analysis demonstrates that Scotland’s universities not only generate knowledge, but crucial wealth and employment.
“If the UK economy is to require new stimuli to move out of recession, there is a strong argument that universities are one of the most reliable options for increased public investment, given their proven multiplier effect, the freedom to operate in international markets and the level of wealth and sustainable employment they are capable of generating for the country.”
Watson also explained how it is important for the University to retain its support from the Scottish Funding Council to ensure the University can continue to make an important contribution to the local economy.
“For every pound of Scottish Funding Council grant we receive, we generate and return £12 to the economy. Or, to turn it on its head, for every pound that St Andrews loses, Scotland will lose £12.
“In the three years since the last economic impact assessment, our annual gross contribution to the Scottish economy has grown by over £170 million a year to £484million, partly due to an increasing spend by the University with local suppliers, our impact on tourism, spending by our staff, the premium of supplying well educated graduates to the economy and an improved ability to measure impact.”
The Scottish Funding Council told The Saint: “Funding for universities has increased overall this year (in 2012-13) and will do so for the next two years. This is important because St Andrews plays a significant role in the economy of Fife, alongside its major contributions to the long term prosperity of Scotland and to international economic development.”
RUK applications to St Andrews on the rise
Behind the story
Applications to St Andrews from UK students living outside Scotland is on the rise. According to UCAS, the University’s admissions team is currently considering 14,355 applications, which has increased by 6% since last year. Despite the growth of tuition fees for English and Welsh students, the team has noticed an 11% increase in applications coming from the rest of the UK (Nina Chitaia writes).
In 2012 the number of English applicants to St Andrews was down by 3%, as the cost of attendance became £9,000. Most universities in England last for three years, while St Andrews offers a four-year course. Rather than spending an extra year, as well as extra money on their studies, students coming from England and Wales chose to stay at home.
However, St Andrews has seen a turnaround and the University has this year been flooded with non-Scottish applicants.
The University advised caution when analysing the figures however. A spokesman told The Saint: “It would be unwise to read too much into a single year’s figures, although on the whole the increase in applications is to be welcomed and may indicate growing public confidence in the value of high quality higher education, notwithstanding tuition fees and the considerable pressures of recession on family incomes.
“It is important to note that applications to St Andrews have increased from prospective students across all sections of society.
“Applications from Scottish students from the most deprived backgrounds have increased markedly, an endorsement of the continuing hard work and varied outreach activities of our Widening Participation team in Admissions,” he said.