The economic impact of our universities

The UK’s leading research-focused universities inject nearly £87 billion into the national economy every year.

The most comprehensive and detailed analysis to date of the group’s combined net contribution, calculates the impact of their teaching and learning activities, their world-renowned research, their spending on goods, services and people, and their value as a major exporter through the income generated from overseas students.


Teaching and Learning

The 166,000 UK-domiciled students who began their studies at Russell Group universities in 2015/16 will go on to contribute £20.7 billion to the UK economy over their working lives through their enhanced skills, productivity and earnings.


More than half of this contribution (52%) will be in the form of additional tax and National Insurance receipts to the Exchequer to fund vital public services. The remaining contribution will be accrued by the graduates themselves in the form of their enhanced spending power after tax and student loan repayments.

Research and Knowledge Transfer

Research carried out at Russell Group universities in 2015/16 will contribute £34.1 billion to the UK economy.


This figure is based on the net direct impact of research activities by Russell Group institutions in that year combined with informed estimates of how this research will help the private sector become more productive through developing cutting-edge technologies and better ways of doing business.  

For every £1 of public research funding they secure, Russell Group universities deliver an average return of £9 to the UK economy.

Educational exports

The immediate export value to the UK in the form of net tuition fee and other study-related income from the 100,000 EU and non-EU students enrolling on courses at Russell Group universities in 2015/16 is £4.8 billion.


Every 7 non-UK students embarking on an undergraduate degree at a Russell Group university will generate £1 million for the UK economy.

The impact of Russell Group universities to the local, regional and national economy

Russell Group universities support a total of 261,000 full-time equivalent jobs – more than the entire population of cities such as Aberdeen and Plymouth. 153,000 of these jobs are supported through direct employment and a further 108,000 supported indirectly through the expenditure of the universities, their staff and international students.


The overall economic impact of spending by the 24 universities in 2015/16 together with the spending of their staff, their suppliers and their international students in the wider economy was £27.2 billion.

Footnote: The total economic impact calculations are based on a snapshot of a single academic year 2015/16. 

The full set of factsheets are available to download


Economic Impact of Russell Group Universities

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