UCL’s annual impact of £9.9bn across the UK economy is comparable to the trade boost delivered by the London 2012 Olympics, finds a new independent report into the university’s economic and social impact.
The report captures the important role that UCL has in training the future workforce to navigate and prosper in a changing world, addressing global challenges through research and innovation and attracting international students to study in the UK.
Led by policy and economics consultancy London Economics, the report reviewed UCL’s impact from a diverse range of activity including research, entrepreneurship, teaching and educational exports in the 2018-19 academic year. It found that every pound spent by UCL produced £5.90 in economic benefit across the UK, which is a 12% increase in UCL’s impact since 2015-16.
It shows how we are supporting the economy and contributing to the ‘levelling up’ agenda by creating 19,000 full-time jobs across the UK (of which 7,400 were outside London) and promoting economic growth by investing £3bn through our supply chain. Just over a third of this impact occurs outside of London.
Dr Michael Spence, UCL’s President & Provost, said: “The UK is home to some of the world’s leading universities, which are tremendous drivers of economic growth and magnets for international investment and collaboration. This study demonstrates for the first time the far-reaching extent to which UCL in particular is improving health and prosperity right across the UK through its work to expand knowledge, translate that into new technologies, techniques, activities and therapies, and nurture the talent of future generations to do the same.
“With the UK facing big challenges but also real opportunities in the post-pandemic world, UCL has proven itself to be one of this country’s great engines of renewal, innovation and growth.”
Key findings of the report:
- UCL generated £9.9bn of economic impact across the UK in 2018/19 – comparable every year to the trade boost delivered by the 2012 London Olympics
- For every pound spent by UCL, £5.90 was generated in economic benefit
- UCL’s research and knowledge exchange provides its largest economic impact, £4.1bn across the UK economy in 2018/19
- The economic impact generated by UCL’s teaching and learning activities was £990 million in 2018/19
- The economic contribution generated by international students in the UCL 2018/19 cohort amounts amounted to £1.7bn in 2018/19
- The £1.6bn total expenditure on UCL activities in 2018/19 generated a total economic benefit of over £3bn
- UCL’s spending supported a total of 19,075 jobs across the UK economy in 2018/19
Impact of research and knowledge exchange
Our ground-breaking research and impactful knowledge exchange provided the largest financial boost, with £4.1bn contributed to the UK economy. This means that for every £1m that was publicly invested in research, UCL produced a benefit of £11.5m. This could only be achieved in collaboration with our partners; 77% of our academic partners are based outside of London.
One area where we are investing heavily is in research to better understand and treat the diseases of the brain. UCL invested £120 million in a new landmark facility dedicated to this, which will support our critical research into conditions including dementia, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s and epilepsy.
Bringing together the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, the headquarters of the UK Dementia Research Institute, and the UCLH National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, the new facility will offer clinical care and will receive referrals from across the UK.
Another example is the ActEarly partnership between UCL and the universities of York, Leeds and Bradford and the Bradford Institute for Health Research. This five-year collaboration promotes a healthier, fairer future for children living in deprived areas, focusing on Bradford in West Yorkshire and Tower Hamlets in London.
In each area, the team work with local communities, authorities and national organisations to support families to live healthier and more active lives, focusing on themes including learning, livelihoods, creating healthy local environments and promoting healthy eating.
Two ways in which UCL creates economic impact is through spinout companies and graduate startups. In 2018/19, 11 new spin-outs and 39 graduate start-ups were created adding to the 72 live spin-outs and 195 graduate start-ups that were active in this academic year. These organisations generated £110.8 million in turnover in 2018/19, employed 2,950 employees and attracted £639 million in external investment.
One example is that of Afrocenchix, which was co-founded by graduate Rachael Twumasi-Corson to develop natural and safe products for Afro and curly hair. Launched in 2010, it has been awarded seed funding from Google and been named one of the “hottest Black-led startups in Europe’ with products being sold in 27 countries globally.
Impact of teaching and learning
UCL’s 48,000 strong student community brings huge cultural and intellectual value and make a huge contribution economically.
The economic impact generated by UCL’s teaching and learning activities was £990 million in 2018/19 and the economic contribution to the UK generated by international students in the UCL 2018/19 cohort amounted to £1.7bn in 2018/19.
Local community impact
The report also quantified UCL’s impact on the local community in London. The university’s expenditure supports jobs and promotes economic growth around the city, generating just under £2bn and supporting over 11,500 jobs.
UCL East, UCL’s new campus at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, is the biggest development in our nearly 200-year history, giving us the scale and space we need to continue that disruptive thinking and find solutions to the biggest problems facing people and the planet. Around 4,000 students and 700 staff will work together and collaborate with local communities and businesses in cutting-edge new research centres specialising in ecology, data, robotics, AI, urbanism, culture, assistive technology, engineering, heritage and health.
Set to open in September 2022, UCL East will deliver 2,500 jobs in Stratford, 600 new homes for students and a £1.5bn boost to the local economy. The campus forms the biggest cultural development in London for decades, joining organisations including the V&A, London College of Fashion, Sadler’s Wells and the BBC.
Impact of social and cultural activities
The report also highlights the societal benefits following a survey of over 1,000 UCL alumni, who said that they left UCL with improved job-related skills, general skills and better well-being. Alumni reported that their experience at UCL helped them meet new people and make new friends, that they had become more enthusiastic about learning and that their time at UCL made them more likely to undertake further learning and training.
UCL students also make a huge contribution to their community, with many playing a proactive role in their local areas and others demonstrating UCL’s entrepreneurial spirit. Every year, around 2,150 students take part in volunteering, which totals about 63,400 hours.
Many stepped up during the pandemic, including medical students who volunteered on UCLH Covid-19 wards during the height of the pandemic, supporting exhausted and over-burdened nursing staff. One inspiring example is that of Zak Dada’s volunteering. Zak built a network of 2,000 volunteers in Merton, South London, to deliver food and supplies to vulnerable neighbours and reduce isolation.