Oxford University contributes over £15 billion to the UK economy

19 October 2021 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read
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As one of the leading educational institutions in the UK, the University of Oxford has played a crucial role in the country’s success for centuries. According to a new economic assessment from London Economics, the facility now contributes more than £15 billion to the UK economy each year.

There is evidence of teaching on the grounds of what became the University of Oxford as early as 1096. This makes it the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and the world's second-oldest university in continuous operation. Oxford is the home of numerous scholarships, including the Rhodes Scholarship, one of the oldest international graduate scholarship programmes. This has seen it draw in the best and brightest consistently throughout its history – and as of October 2020, 72 Nobel Prize laureates, three Fields Medalists, and six Turing Award winners have studied, worked, or held visiting fellowships at the University of Oxford, while its alumni have won 160 Olympic medals.

The institution resultingly has a huge economic impact on the UK – something which has been quantified by a study from researchers at London Economics. The University contributed £15.7 billion to the UK economy in the 2018/19 financial year alone.

Impact of the University of Oxford’s research and knowledge exchange activities in 2018-19

Breaking down which elements of the University’s activities had the greatest impact, its research and knowledge work resulted in £7.9 billion in value for the UK economy. A 9% rise from the 2015/16 figure of £7.2 billion, this had particularly pronounced impacts on the UK’s production sector, which benefitted to the tune of £790 million. Similarly, professional  and  support  activities saw £782 million contributed, alongside government,  health,  and  education at £567 million, and the distribution, transport, hotel, and restaurant sector, at £452 million.

Breaking this down further, research activities made up the majority of this economic contribution, at £4.49 billion. Meanwhile, knowledge exchange activities represented £3.4 billion of the impact the University had. Compared to the £771 million of research income received by the University in the same year, the researchers concluded this suggested that for each £1 million of its research income, the University’s research and knowledge exchange activities generated a total of £10.3 million in economic impact across the UK.

Impact of the University’s educational exports associated with international students in the 2018-19 cohort

Professor Patrick Grant, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Oxford, stated, “This analysis provides compelling evidence that our research-intensive universities are key contributors to the prosperity of the United Kingdom. Every pound invested in our universities, which bring together world-class research and outstanding teaching, has the power to transform our economy and our society. As we continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and carve out our position in a post-Brexit world, it serves as a reminder of the growing role of universities in our country’s future.”

Research was not the only way the University made an economic contribution to the UK, however. Indeed, it only made up half of the institution’s impact. Due to its standing as one of the world’s most reputable higher education hubs, Oxford also drew in significant funds from international students coming to learn there. International students brought £732 million into the economy as a result of this – £588 million of that coming from the EU, and £200 million from EU citizens. The money coming into the economy was not only relating to student fees either, as £340 million of that was non-fee income, including accommodation and learning materials.

Impact associated with the University’s and its colleges’ expenditure in 2018-19

At the same time, the expenditures of the University and its colleges generate additional rounds of spending throughout the economy. When taking into account the University’s and colleges’ supply chains, and the spending of staff, the total direct, indirect, and induced impact associated with the expenditures of the University of Oxford and its colleges in 2018-19 was estimated at £6 billion. £4.47 billion of this total was associated with the spending of the University of Oxford itself, and £1.56 billion was generated as a result of the expenditures of the University’s colleges.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, remarked, “While these figures represent only one way of considering the ultimately inestimable value of what we do, they are a raw index of the power of our work as researchers, teachers and communicators to benefit society locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.”