Prosperity and inclusion: Higher education and the wellbeing economy

Building a better nation: Starting from our strengths

Our submission sets out Universities Scotland’s case to the Scottish Government for the resource spending review for 2023/24 to 2026/27. It responds to the Finance Secretary’s call, in launching the 2022 National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET), to imagine Scotland as a wellbeing economy in 2032 and as a nation which has made effective use of the next decade to maximise the opportunities that lie before it.

Universities are a vital source of talent, of new ideas and innovation. We are always ambitious for our students and staff and for the wider social and economic impact we can deliver in Scotland and internationally. Looking to the next decade, we see many opportunities to maximise the potential in our people and the strong partnerships we have with the public and private sector to the benefit of an inclusive, creative, sustainable Scotland. To get there, we need investment in the fundamentals of our contribution to the common good – and to support our agility in seizing opportunities for Scotland and our people. If the Scottish Government can make that commitment to universities in the resource spending review through to 2027, we are clear in our purpose and we are committed to deliver our part of building the nation’s inclusive prosperity.

Invest to achieve our ambitions for Scotland’s wellbeing economy

In our submission we ask for an additional investment of £105.95 million in the first year of the resource spending review, so that we can fulfil our ambitions for the nation’s success and for those investments to be sustained in real terms. We have framed this request within the parameters of affordability as the Scottish Government budget is set for a real-terms average growth of 2.4% between 2021/22 and 2024/25.

Our ask is across the following areas:

  • £55.2m in the teaching grant. This represents a £400 increase in every Scottish-domiciled student at university.
  • £32.1m in the research excellence grant. This could crowd in private investment, generating a bigger economic return with a multiplier of 8:1.
  • £4.0m in research postgraduate grant. An investment in the pipeline of research talent and innovators.
  • £7.65m in the university innovation fund. This represents a 50% increase to accelerate universities’ strength in commercialising outputs.
  • £7m in upskilling and reskilling. There is strong employer and employee demand for university-run short courses and skills development.

Key Points:

  • For every 1,000 graduates, the Scottish Government gains £22.4 million in additional income tax contributions.
  • Our graduates go direct into skilled jobs. 90% of STEM are in skilled jobs within six months as are 87% of graduates of other disciplines.
  • Scotland’s universities made an economic contribution of £15.3 billion to the UK economy in 2019/20.
  • £5.8 billion of the £15.3billion economic impact is from research and knowledge exchange activity.
  • For every £1 million of public funds invested into university research, there is an economic return of £8.1 million.
  • 16.4% of Scottish undergraduate entrants to university are from the 20% most disadvantaged backgrounds, putting Scotland on track to achieve hugely ambitious social mobility goals by 2030.
  • University exports of education, research and commercialisation add £1.9 billion to the economy.
  • There are around 1,240 active university spin-out companies in Scotland generating around £613 million. This is 19% of the UK total.
  • For every person employed by a Scottish university, another job is supported elsewhere in the UK economy through direct, indirect and induced effects. 77% of these jobs are in Scotland.

Further Reading


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