The Civic University

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The Civic University

Published 8 febrero 2022

Nicky Fairbairn, a Real Estate Partner and member of the Education team at International law firm DAC Beachcroft asks Scott Corfe, Research Director at the Social Market Foundation about the role civically minded universities will play in shaping the future of our town and city centres.

The evidence is clear that the overall impact of a university education for students is positive. For most, attending university represents a substantial return on investment, leading to an increase in lifetime earnings of over £100,000 on average even taking Into account taxes, student loan repayments and foregone earnings while studying. Four in every five students gain financially from attending university, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

But beyond the gain for individual students our higher education institutions have a significant role to play in supporting local economies and driving urban regeneration.

Universities are often amongst the largest local employers in their area, with 19 of them directly employing more than 5,000 people. In some places, higher education institutions are truly major local employers. There are ten UK] universities that account for at least one in every 20 jobs in the local authority areas in which they are based.

Higher education institutions also support employment elsewhere in local communities. This includes jobs created along their extensive supply chains ( “indirect” economic effects) and from the spending of university staff and students generating jobs within communities (so-called “induced” economic effects).

Research by Frontier Economics has estimated that universities in England contribute about £95 billion to the economy, supporting more than 815,000 jobs. A separate study by Hatch Regeneris has estimated that universities typically support up to one additional job in the immediate local economy for every person they employ directly.

This data Is sometimes overlooked in political debate around HE which is curious, given the way some politicians are so keen to focus on place and local economic experience. Universities are big players in local economies and support a large number of well-paid jobs in parts of the country where such work can often be lacking.

Figure 1 Number of additional jobs created in the immediate local economy, per university job


Nicola Fairbairn

Nicola Fairbairn


+44 (0)191 404 4019

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