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At the start of Universities Week, results released today from the annual Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey show an increase of 5.5 per cent in the higher education sector's income from services it has provided to UK businesses and wider society: rising to nearly £3 billion in 2009.

The HE-BCI survey findings show that even in the economically unstable period we are experiencing, universities and other higher education institutions (HEIs) are increasingly successful at using their knowledge, expertise and facilities to contribute to the UK economy through research, professional training, consultancy and services, spin-off companies and new enterprises, and to generate income to support their core activities.

Key findings from the HE-BCI survey:

  • New enterprises by HEI staff increased by 29 per cent and graduate enterprises rose by 4 per cent. Many of the start-ups are demonstrating longevity: the number of graduate enterprises surviving three years or more is up by 26 per cent. Turnover and staffing for these graduate start-ups rose by 16 per cent and 27 per cent respectively, showing them to have a positive impact on the national economy and jobs.
  • Continuing professional development (CPD) income rose by 4 per cent to £559 million, including a 15 per cent rise in income coming from individuals in continuing education (CE), to £175 million. This is due to not only business-related learning but also retraining for those who are out of work due to the recession. In total, learners clocked up four million days of CPD and CE – up by 21 per cent from the previous year. However, CPD income from commercial business (SMEs and large businesses) fell (by 9 per cent and 14 per cent respectively) – most likely due to the difficult economic climate.
  • Public sector and third-sector spending on HEIs rose, mainly through collaborative research income, which increased by approximately 5 per cent to £730 million, and contract research income which rose by 12 per cent to £937 million.
  • Income from intellectual property and sale of spin-off companies almost doubled (£124 million, up from £66 million). Much of this (42 per cent) can be attributed to one high-profile sale of Surrey Satellite Technology; but even without this there was a 9 per cent increase (equating to £73 million): this suggests that intellectual property portfolios are a major success story for HEIs. These successful spin-off companies demonstrated a clear trend of long-term survival as well as benefits to employment and the wider economy: the number of companies that remained active for three years or more was up by 12 per cent in the year to 982 businesses.

David Sweeney, Director (Research, Innovation and Skills) HEFCE said:

'We now recognise that knowledge transfer is a core activity of higher education, alongside and adding value to research and teaching. This reflects the purposes for which universities were originally created – to support the social and economic transformations of their communities. These figures show that higher education continues to fulfil these fundamental purposes, with even greater vigour in the 21st century and in challenging financial times. Many UK businesses – and public and third-sector organisations – rely on the knowledge and expertise of universities. Indeed a recent CBI survey revealed that two-thirds of businesses now have links with HEIs, which are providing essential and cost effective research, expertise and knowledge that are fundamental to the UK’s economic growth.'

David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, said:

'The UK's universities are not only world-leading educational establishments, but vital contributors to our nation’s prosperity. Initiatives such as Universities Week spread awareness of the positive role universities play in all our lives. I am delighted to have the opportunity to engage the population in the success of our higher education institutions.

'The HE-BCI survey shows that even in difficult times, universities and other higher education institutions are using their knowledge, expertise and facilities to contribute to the UK economy. In these difficult economic times we face, the whole nation stands to benefit.'

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK added:

'Universities have an increasingly explicit role in providing services to business, collaborating in the research and development that allows those businesses to survive and flourish. But beyond the HE-BCI figure of £2.97 billion generated by services, we also have Universities UK’s separate independent research from 2009 which looked at the broader economic impact of universities. This found that taking account of all their activities, universities generate £59 billion each year to the economy, and that is without counting the value created by their graduates.

'These are astonishing statistics which demonstrate the extent to which universities do so much more for society and the economy, beyond their core role of teaching and learning. It is precisely because universities are such a success story – in economic as well as social terms – that Universities Week is taking place now. Over 100 universities and organisations are taking part in more than 200 events across the UK this week, to highlight to the public the hugely positive impact of universities on all of our lives.'

Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction Survey: 2008-09 (HEFCE 2010/14)

For more information on Universities Week visit www.universitiesweek.org.uk or if you are a Facebook user you can register your support at http://www.facebook.com/ukuniversities.

Notes

1. The first Universities Week is taking place 14-20 June 2010, and aims to increase public awareness of the wide and varied role of the UK's universities.

Over 100 universities and linked organisations are involved in Universities Week. Nationwide activity will include open days and debates for members of the public to attend. A list of events can be found at www.universitiesweek.org.uk.

Universities Week also has a Facebook page www.facebook.com/universities

2. The UK's higher education institutions have a tangible effect on our economy, generating almost £59 billion of output every year. They are some of the largest employers in their regions, and nationally create over 600,000 jobs either directly through higher education, or via knock-on effects.

3. The campaign is being co-ordinated by Universities UK, the representative body for all UK universities, with support from a wide range of higher education stakeholders including:

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services
  • CASE Europe
  • Council for Industry in Higher Education
  • GuildHE
  • Higher Education External Relations Association
  • Million+
  • National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement
  • Research Councils UK
  • The 1994 Group
  • The National Union of Students (NUS)
  • The Russell Group
  • The Universities and Colleges Employers' Association
  • The University College Union
  • UCAS
  • University Alliance
  • University Marketing Forum

4. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) distributes public money for teaching, research and related activities. In 2010-11 HEFCE will distribute over £7.4 billion to 130 higher education institutions and 124 further education colleges.

5. Data for the HE-BCI survey was collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). The survey is analysed and published annually by HEFCE on behalf of the UK Stakeholders group and BIS.