The Australian by Tim Dodd 14 August 2018
The elite Group of Eight universities says it has an outsized economic impact, creating benefits worth at least five times more valuable than the cost of running its research, teaching and other activities.
A study commissioned by the Go8 says the eight research-intensive universities had a total economic impact of $66 billion in 2016, compared with the $12bn cost of operating them.
The study, by British consultants London Economics, analyses the cost versus the benefit of the universities in research, education exports and teaching, as well as the direct economic impact of employment and spending rates.
It found the impact of Go8 research was worth nearly $25bn, its education exports $18bn, its teaching and learning for students $5bn, and the impact of the universities’ expenditure in the economy $19bn.
University of NSW vice-chancellor and Go8 chairman Ian Jacobs said universities had not succeeded in communicating to governments and the public the size of this contribution.
He said the Go8 had “initiated an engagement process” to explain how universities benefit the community and he was making a start by addressing the National Press Club today.
The study found the universities delivered an economic impact of $24.5bn from $2.4bn spent on research in 2016.
Nearly all the return was calculated to be in research “spillovers”, where the knowledge generated in universities improves productivity in other parts of the economy.
Professor Jacobs said universities had to press the message home that research led to such large benefits.
“We need to work with government and industry to increase the amount of R&D spend in order to maximise that return,” he said.
The study also found each three international students in a Go8 university delivered an economic impact of $1 million.
London Economics partner Gavan Conlon said the estimates were conservative, and the study left out some spillover effects, including the positive impact that a greater number of educated people in the population had on those who were less educated.
The institutions in the Go8 are the universities of Sydney, Melbourne, Queensland, Adelaide and Western Australia, as well as Monash, UNSW and ANU.