Cambridge University adds more money to UK economy than the Premier League, says report

The University of Cambridge.
Credit: PA
The report says the University of Cambridge adds £30 billion to UK economy every year. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Cambridge University's financial contribution to the UK economy is more than four times that of the Premier League, a new report claims.

It shows that the university adds nearly £30bn to the economy every year and supports more than 86,000 jobs across the UK.

In 2020-21, £23bn of that money came from the hundreds of spinout and start-up companies that have emerged from Cambridge, said the report by consultants London Economics.

Other benefits come through a combination of research, entrepreneurial activities, tourism and enhanced value that graduates bring to employment, says the report commissioned by the university.

The report, carried out by London Economics, states: “For every £1 we spend, we create £11.70 of economic impact, and for every £1m of publicly funded research income we receive, we generate £12.65m in economic impact across the UK.

“The university’s contribution to the UK economy is almost four times that of the Premier League.”

The total sum was a combination of the impact of research and knowledge exchange; teaching and learning; educational exports, including international tuition; university and college spending; and tourism.

The University supports more than 86,000 jobs in the UK Credit: ITV News Anglia

Nearly 80% of the £29.8bn was made up of research and knowledge exchange activities, which included the 178 spin-out and 213 start-up companies that have emerged from the Cambridge cluster.

Examples of research impact included saving at least £120m of public money in the South West through improving surveillance of bovine tuberculosis, and innovation in drug discovery techniques which created approximately 140 jobs in Cambridge for biopharmaceutical company Astex.

The university's acting vice-chancellor Dr Anthony Freeling said: “This report demonstrates how international excellence coupled with a deliberate strategy of investing in innovation creates jobs and significant growth for the UK economy.”

“Our goal is to accelerate progress," he added. “Doing so requires action in four areas of policy.

"Better infrastructure in the city and region including affordable housing and transport and laboratory space; better access to talented, skilled individuals from across the world, stable research funding, and better access to capital."

Also cited in the report is the value of tourism associated with the University of Cambridge. The impact of tourism, calculated with pre-Covid visiting data and average spend, was estimated to be £587m.

Analysis of tourism impact used the approximation of 462,000 overseas visitors to Cambridge in 2019, of which 260,000 were assumed to be associated with the university.

Much of the economic impact of tourism was attributed to the rich culture and heritage of the university and its associated sites, for example, the eight University of Cambridge museums and the Botanic Gardens.

These sites contain more than five million works of art, artefacts, and specimens, and reportedly brought more than one million visitors a year to the university, pre-Covid.

The university comprises 31 colleges and 150 departments, faculties and institutions. Its 24,450 student body includes more than 9,000 international students from 147 countries.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know