Transforming People & Place: The University of the Highlands and Islands

A recently published report has highlighted the important contribution to the local economy made by the work of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

  • £560million to the Highlands and Islands, Moray and Perthshire economies
  • 6,200 jobs supported

The economic impact assessment shows that for every £1 spent on the university, the university partnership puts £4 back into the economies of the communities it serves.

The report, which was commissioned by the university partnership last year, has been produced by the independent consultancy, Biggar Economics.

The findings also reveal that the partnership’s impact across Scotland has grown by between 20% and 25% since it was last measured in 2010, mainly due to an increase in staff and graduates.

The partnership achieved full university status in 2011 and will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in February 2021.

As a tertiary provider it brings choices for all learners regardless of their previous level of attainment, age or personal circumstances

UHI has also significantly contributed to more than the economies of the areas it serves.

“The benefits of the university extend beyond the significant gross value added and jobs measures.

“It supports sustainable and inclusive economic wellbeing and social development in the broadest sense, for people, communities and employers across the region.

“It supports heritage and culture, the economy, the environment, the regional health sector and it offers pathways through tertiary education that give routes to personal and collective growth and development.

“Through the university, the region has greater control of its own economic and social future which will be especially important in helping its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Transforming the Highlands and Islands

The evidence gathered during the study suggests that the University is facilitating a transformation in:
• the economic structure and future direction of the region;
• the educational opportunities available to people who live there; and
• placemaking in the region’s towns and localities.

Biggar Economics has also published reports on the economic impact of the individual colleges and research institutions which make up the university partnership. The network covers the largest geographical area of any campus-based university or college in the UK and has the largest student population in Scotland, with nearly 37,000 students studying across the university partnership each year.

Orkney College UHI

UHI Orkney College Campus

The Orkney College campus was built in 2002 on the outskirts of Kirkwall and serves a rural island community of around 22,000 people. The College offers a wide range of courses across the full range of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, up to and including PhD.

It also offers training and vocational skills and is MCA and RYA certified. The College has strengths in archaeology, art and design, business administration and computer science and has several research areas, including Agronomy, Archaeology and Northern Studies. Scott’s House in Kirkwall hosts the Institute for Northern Studies and Maritime studies are hosted at its second campus in Stromness.

In 2019, Orkney College UHI had almost 110 members of staff, 2,800 student enrolments and an annual income of £5 million.

Welcoming the findings, Professor Crichton Lang, University of the Highlands and Islands Principal and Vice-Chancellor (Interim), said:

“We commissioned these reports to measure the contribution our university partnership makes to the communities we serve. It shows that investment in our partnership has a clear benefit and, in these uncertain economic times, it is important to understand this benefit and highlight the full extent of the value the university partnership brings.

“As a flourishing university for the Highlands and Islands, Moray and Perthshire we aim to retain, attract and nurture talent in our region to reverse population decline and build innovation and socio-economic prosperity. This mission is particularly important as we work to support the recovery of our region following the COVID-19 pandemic. The nature of employment will change and we are working with employers, communities and learners to respond to their needs.”

Economic Impact

The University’s total income in 2019 was £135 million and it generated a GVA impact across Scotland of £653 million, suggesting that every £1 income received by the University generates a GVA impact of £5 across Scotland.

An estimated 86% of the University’s GVA impact is retained within the Highlands and Islands, Moray and Perthshire, giving a local GVA multiplier of around £4 for every £1 income received.

Regional GVA in the Highlands and Islands study area (defined as the local authorities of Argyll & Bute, Highland, Moray, Na h-Eileanan Siar, Orkney Islands, Perth & Kinross, Shetland Islands) in 2018 was £16.8 billion. This implies that, at its current (2019) scale, the organisation represents around 3.3% of regional GVA in the Highlands and islands.

The University of the Highlands and Islands’ economic impact assessment report is available in the publications section of the university’s website.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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