Issue date: 15 November 2001

Higher Education generated a massive £1.3 billion for the South West economy last year and supported 57,000 jobs, according to new research commissioned by the Higher Education Regional Development Association for the South West (HERDA-SW).

The findings will be discussed today (15 November) at a special conference for higher education business relations specialists being held in Torquay. The conference, which lasts two days, is being attended by 150 individuals from across the South West region. They will be sharing best practice and looking at how higher education and the knowledge economy can best benefit the South West.

Other key findings of the research include:

 Students spend an average of £4,000 a year each in the region
 Total student expenditure adds up to £320 million, thereby supporting 20,000 jobs outside of Higher Education
 Universities and Higher Education colleges directly employ 17,000 people, but another 40,000 jobs depend on them (57,000 in total)
 30 per cent of graduates stay in the region for their first job
 80 per cent of South West students who also study in the region stay here for their first job

Sean Mackney, Head of Secretariat for HERDA-SW, said:

“Higher Education institutions contribute to the South West economy in three ways. Firstly by their annual spending, which is considerable. Secondly, graduates who stay in the region tend to attract higher wages and therefore have greater personal spending power, which in turn benefits traders. And lastly, higher education institutions produce economically useful information and knowledge. In other words they develop new ideas, which are often commercially useful, and also have skills and experience which can help businesses become more competitive. It is this last area that Higher Education institutions are working hard to develop through HERDA-SW.”

Higher Education’s work with business is being increasingly supported by the Government as part of its drive for a 'Knowledge Economy'. Last year the Government provided £8 million worth of funding specifically to support business relations activities in the South West and upped that to £13 million this year.

Examples of how this money is being used include:

University of the West of England

The University of the West of England has a well-established record of partnership with business and the community. UWE’s Centre for Research, Innovation and Industry (CRII) was set up in 1993 and recent government funding has enabled the launch of a dedicated Business and Regional Team to strengthen links with local, national and international organisations.

As part of its drive to develop enterprise, CRII is managing a £0.5 million project to create a business incubation unit in the centre of Bristol. The unit is focussing on digital media and eCommerce, and will form part of the South-West Incubation Network, interacting with industry and academia to contribute to the growth of this sector. Another measure to support the knowledge economy is the recent launch of UWE’s Business Plan Competition worth up to £20,000 for the winning team.

UWE staff and students spend around £189 million in the local and regional economy each year. The University has an excellent record for graduate employment with over 40% of graduates taking up employment in the South West.

Professor Kate Purcell, director of the Employment Studies Research Unit in UWE’s Bristol Business School, and Monica Gibson-Sweet, head of the Business and Regional Team, will be among speakers at the Aim Higher Conference.


Notes to News Editors:

For further information contact Sean Mackney on 01392 229579.

The conference 'Aim Higher' takes place at the Imperial Hotel, Torquay, today and tomorrow (15/16 November).

Speakers include Professor Roderick Floud, of Universities UK, and Sir Michael Lickiss, Chair of the South West Regional Development Agency.

HERDA-SW, the Higher Education Regional Development Association - South West, is an association of the fourteen HE institutions in the South West who established the organisation with the joint aims of extending higher education's contribution to sustainable regional development and competitiveness and influencing and shaping the social and economic agenda in the South West by appropriate joint action.

The fourteen members of HERDA-SW are: Arts Institute at Bournemouth;
Bath Spa University College; Bournemouth University; College of St Mark & St John; Dartington College of Arts; Falmouth College of Arts; Open University; Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester; University of Bath; University of Bristol; University of Exeter; University of Gloucestershire; University of Plymouth; University of the West of England, Bristol.

Back to top