Irish higher education sector contributed €10.6 billion to the economy

Posted on: 31 December 2015

Irish higher education institutions contributed €10.6 billion to the Irish economy in 2010-2011 and supported 150,000 jobs, according to new research involving economists from Trinity College Dublin. 

The research, which represents one of the first attempts to analyse the economic impact of the higher education space in Ireland, finds that the higher education sector in Ireland forms an important part of the economic infrastructure and generates substantial economic activity.

The study, recently published in the journal ‘Studies in Higher Education’, focused on the seven universities and 14 institutes of technology, where the bulk of private spending and students are located in Ireland. The economic impact of these 21 institutions were measured looking at how their spending and purchasing, and those of staff and students, interacts with local and national economies.

Key findings:

  • For the academic year of 2010-2011 the sector had a total of 185,342 students enrolled and employed 21,811 staff.
  • The overall expenditure of the sector, not including the expenditure of staff and students, was €2.61 billion of which €1.45 billion was provided by government sources directly.
  • Of the €10.6 billion contributed to the economy by the sector, €7.4 billion was contributed by the university sector and €3.2 billion by institutes of technology.
  • The study calculated that for every €1 spent on higher education €4 was contributed to the Irish economy, amounting to a total national output of €10.6 billion.  
  • The study also calculated that for every job in Irish higher education institutions seven additional jobs were indirectly supported in the economy amounting to some 150,000 jobs in the 2010-2011 academic year.
  • The study found that Irish figures are comparable to similar studies of higher education institutions in the UK. An analysis of the economic impact of all UK and Irish higher education institutions placed five Irish institutions in the top 20 (Dublin City University, University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick and Letterkenny Institute of Technology).

“While there has been a lot of talk about the financial sustainability of higher education and the search for new funding models in universities and other higher education institutions in Ireland, little empirical evidence exists to guide policy making. These findings will contribute to the current national debate about the funding challenges facing the sector in a post-bailout environment,” commented Brian Lucey, Professor in Finance, Trinity Business School, one of the authors of the paper.

“Our study had a very narrow economic focus,  and asked the question – does the economy receive more than one euro’s worth of economic activity for every euro it spends on higher education in Ireland? The answer was a resounding yes.  Higher education supports 150,000 jobs and generates €10 billion in national income”

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