I know from my own experience that universities and higher education transform the lives of individuals and shape our society for the better. In addition, with 130 higher education institutions in England, and revenues of £23.3 billion, 262,700 members of staff and two million students, universities are also powerhouses for economic growth in their own right.
Recent studies have already highlighted that higher education is important to the national economy, with a graduate workface raising productivity and contributing to economic growth. However, the importance of higher education in the local economy is also starting to attract increased attention.
Universities can bring many benefits to their local areas. They provide educational opportunities, are a source of research and innovation support and can work with local and regional businesses, as well as playing an important role in civic society. As independent organisations with a non-profit-making educational mission, universities can provide civic leadership, as well as being a public space for debate and exchange of ideas.
A report by Universities UK in 2014 highlighted the economic benefits of higher education in the South West, where Bath Spa University is based. The total revenue of higher education was £1.7 billion and through knock-on effects, an additional £2.2 billion in other industries was also generated throughout the UK, with the majority (£1.9 billion) in the region. A total of 51,780 jobs were also generated thanks to universities, together with the expenditure of the international students and students from the rest of the UK - quite the powerhouse hub in the South West.
Here at Bath Spa University, we've commissioned our own research into the economic value of the University in the historic city of Bath. Set in the rolling countryside and known for its natural hot springs and 18th-centry Georgian architecture, Bath is already a popular tourist spot for UK and international visitors. However, it may surprise you to know that Bath Spa University is the fifth largest employer in Bath and North East Somerset, employing considerably more than some of the city's most famous institutions.
Even though a relatively small University, Bath Spa itself employs 966 people and supported 2,050 jobs in Bath and North East Somerset in 2014/15 - equivalent to one in every 49 jobs in the district.
As well as employment and our own revenues adding to the local economy, our students are key drivers to the success of the city. These students are estimated to spend around £60 million each year on local transport, food and personal items from retail and leisure outlets in the city.
Friends and relatives visiting the students also spend money in the district, generating economic activity and supporting employment in local business. These visitors alone spent £0.8 million on transport, local hotels, restaurants, bars and visiting cultural recreational and sports attractions. This spending supported around 20 jobs in the city.
I'm proud that as a University we support our local community in so many ways and we are keen to grow with the city. Universities should be seen as a vital part in building national and local economic growth and not just as standalone entities.
Just as universities wouldn't survive without the cities and towns they work in, cities and towns would look very different without universities too.