A report released found that Queen’s University Belfast undergraduate students each contribute on average £101,000 to the public purse, strengthening the growing calls for further subsidies or a full scrap of tuition fees in tertiary education.
The ‘Economic Impact Report’, published by consulting firm London Economics on behalf of Queen’s, also found that there are higher net public purse benefits and higher rates of returns for Northern Irish students who study at Queen’s compared to those who study in the rest of the United Kingdom.
While raising these figures, the findings also highlight the impact Queen’s has on the economy. Overall, Queen’s contributes 1.9 billion to the British economy, which represents a cost to benefit ratio of 6:1. In 2015-6, teaching and learning activities were worth £809.4 million, with some 23,880 students being taught. In the same year, research activity contributed £465.1 million. Queen’s largest expenditure was in wages, with some 3525 full-time staff and another 2570 staff who are in some way supported by Queen’s.
Commenting on the findings, President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Ian Greer, said: “As a global top 200 university, Queen’s University Belfast is a place that delivers both local and international impact. This report is a timely reminder of the increasing economic, social and cultural impact of universities.
“Queen’s is an economic powerhouse of innovation and has a vital role to play in generating the knowledge and skills needed to fuel our economy.”
Professor Greer added: “The report has highlighted that Queen’s University contributes £1.9 billion to the UK economy, supports over 6,270 full-time jobs and is committed to working collaboratively. By working in partnership, we can continue to maximise the unique and positive impact of the University, both locally and globally, to grow the economy.”
All of this comes at a time of debate within the education sector over how students could be further supported economically. While the government mulls a reduction in tuition fees or a re-introduction of maintenance grants, last year thousands of students took to the streets in London to protest tuition fees and the levels of student debt being accrued while studying at university. They enjoy support from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour opposition, who have backed free university tuition and co-opted it into their manifesto.
This report, albeit unrepresentative of the UK as a whole, will surely add some credence to the argument in favour of at least a further reduction in the cost of a university education for undergraduate students due to their outsized impact on the British economy. The question for Philip Hammond is this a worthy investment, considering the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.
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