A pioneering report investigating the socio-economic impact of a UK university has been completed by independent research firm, Library House.

The report, 'The Impact of the University of Cambridge on the UK Economy and Society', concludes that if the University did not exist, more than £50 billion and over 150,000 jobs would be needed to replace the University’s impact on the economy.

The report also confirms that the University of Cambridge is a global leader ranked among the top three international research and teaching universities. Significantly, Cambridge achieves its world-leading position alongside Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley and MIT with much smaller financial resources.

The University's impact extends beyond the University community. Since 1960, it has played an increasing role in the development of the Cambridge Cluster, Europe’s leading technology cluster, which now numbers around 900 innovation based companies. 51 companies have spun-out directly from the University and a further 250 trace their origins to the University.

Without the University, the Cambridge Cluster would not exist. As a result, the significance of the University’s economic impact on the UK over the next ten years, calculated from the combined loss of the University and the Cluster, adds up to an impressive £57.5 billion (net present value) in replacement GDP and 154,000 new jobs.

The combination of Cambridge’s reputation for research and the Cambridge Cluster has attracted global organisations to establish research and development facilities in close proximity to the University. Examples include Genzyme, Intel, Microsoft and Toshiba. This magnetic effect has also attracted major institutions such as Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and the Sanger Centre to the region.

The University has launched a £1 billion appeal to boost its endowment fund to compete with its US rivals who have substantially deeper pockets. By comparison with its US peers, Cambridge has a much lower endowment income – the annual income alone from Harvard’s endowments exceeds the total of the University’s endowment fund.

Key findings:

  • The University of Cambridge is the only UK university consistently ranked in the global top three universities for research and teaching
  • With a total of 81, Cambridge-associated researchers have received more Nobel Prizes than any other university or any other country apart from the UK and US
  • The University directly employs 11,700 people and in total supports 77,000 jobs in the East of England region
  • The Cambridge region is host to Europe’s largest concentration of hi-tech companies
  • Cambridge counts 51 direct spin-off companies and 250 in total as a result of knowledge transfer. These companies employed 4,000 people and generated revenues of £574m in 2005
  • Cambridge is the location of Microsoft’s first research lab outside of the US
  • The number of research papers published by the University has grown rapidly over the past 15 years to a total of 5,900 papers in 2004
  • Cambridge publishes more than twice as many papers in the arts and humanities compared with Harvard University, its closest competitor in the Global Top 5
  • Cambridge and Harvard have large full-time student populations - 17,000 and 18,000 respectively - of which undergraduates comprise two-thirds of Cambridge students and only one third at Harvard

Professor Ian Leslie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Cambridge, said: “The University’s contributions to society and the economy are diverse. It is fascinating to see how our wide range of contributions are viewed from outside, and I am confident the Library House study will move the thinking on the value of universities forward.”

The report was produced in conjunction with the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), The Cambridge Network and the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

The full text of the report is available from the East of England Observatory website.

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