UNIVERSITIES Higher education boosts economy

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Universities provide Britain with big bucks as well as brains, says a report commissioned by vice-chancellors. A study published yesterday, just a fortnight before the Dearing Committee publishes its conclusions on the future of higher education, highlights universities' contribution to the UK economy.

Though universities receive some pounds 9bn annually in public funding for education and research, the higher education sector now generates business worth over pounds 43bn a year, according to the report.

In total, universities provide jobs either directly or indirectly for more than 3 per cent of the total workforce. In 1995-6, higher education had an estimated international balance of trade surplus of pounds 1.3bn, while the economy as a whole had a deficit of pounds 5.5bn.

Vice-chancellors hope the study, The Impact of Universities and Colleges on the UK Economy, will help counter impressions of higher education as a perpetually cash-hungry sector and demonstrate how universities provide value for money. Lucy Ward