The long-term outlook is positive, despite short-term challenges.
The University of Wollongong’s contribution to the Illawarra and Australian economy continues to grow steadily, rising 6% in the last three years, a newly released report has revealed.
Leading Locally, Competing Globally: Economic Impact Report 2020, prepared by researchers from UOW’s SMART Infrastructure Facility and leading international professional services firm Ernst and Young, found the University’s direct, indirect and induced economic impact is now worth $1.4 billion annually on 2018 figures, compared to $1.3 billion in 2015.
EMPLOYMENT, RESEARCH AND STUDENT REVENUES
In employment terms, the direct, indirect and induced economic impact of the University sustains 7,666 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) jobs in the Illawarra, 8,331 across NSW and 10,938 nationally.
Research activity, funded by grants or partnerships with industry or government, accounted for $640 million in income over the last decade, while entrepreneurial activity being supported in the University’s iAccelerate business incubator program generated more than $57.6 million in gross revenue in 2019 alone.
Students account for the largest share of the economic impact, with the total UOW student expenditure nationally totalling $410 million in 2018, with the total value-add, which includes the indirect impact from student spending, estimated at $646 million.
Every $1 million spent by students generates $3.2 million elsewhere in the economy, in addition to the revenue generated by student tuition fees, which in 2018 was approximately $548 million.
OTHER COMMUNITY BENEFITS
Other social, health and educational benefits flowing to the community from the University and its facilities are shown in the more than 645,000 visits to UniActive, 125,000+ visits to the Early Start Discovery Space and 65,000+ visits to the Science Space in 2018-19.
UOW’s regional campuses also played an important role with the Bega and Batemans Bay campuses providing refuge for more than 300 residents and visitors during the January 2020 bushfires.
The value of UOW student and staff volunteering on campus and in the community during 2019 is estimated at $156,000, with 2,700 hours of volunteer work performed in Early Start alone.
RESPONDING TO A GLOBALLY-EXPOSED KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY
UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, says the report’s findings confirm the region’s continuing transition from an industrial economy relying on mining and manufacturing to a knowledge economy with education and research outcomes as its major exports.
The increasing importance of education—particularly international students—to the Illawarra and Australian economies has come into sharp focus with the emergence of the new strand of coronavirus, called COVID-19, since December 2019 and the travel restrictions mandated by Australian and foreign governments in an effort to contain the outbreak.
“In responding to COVID-19, the safety and wellbeing of all of our students, staff and communities is our paramount concern.
“UOW has accepted and implemented all the advice of government. We are providing every possible assistance to all of our students and, while we hope the situation can be resolved so normal international movement can resume, we need to prepare for a short-term financial and economic impact.
“Education and research is a global endeavour that transcends national boundaries and so is always subject to global economic forces and impacted by international events,” Professor Wellings said.
A decrease in student enrolments is expected to create a local flow on economic impact from lost student expenditure on accommodation, health insurance, travel, transport, retail, entertainment and hospitality spending.
The experience of the 2003 SARS outbreak was of an initial short-term economic impact followed by a period of rapid recovery and steady growth over the medium term once the virus was contained.
MINIMISING IMPACT THROUGH DIVERSITY AND OFFSHORE GROWTH
UOW has pursued a deliberate strategy of diversification in onshore international student enrolments and offshore growth to avoid over exposure to any single market.
The University has increasingly deepened its connection with Central Asian countries, particularly India, Sri Lanka and Nepal via research agreements, transformative projects, education exchanges and academic partnerships.
Some 115 nations are represented in UOW’s onshore student community, with India now providing the largest cohort of international students.
OFFSHORE EXPANSION FOR A GLOBAL INSTITUTION
This diversification has occurred alongside a steady expansion in UOW’s offshore presence in recent years.
In 2015 UOW Global Enterprises took custodianship of the community college of Hong Kong’s City University, which became UOW College Hong Kong in 2017, and in November 2019 launched UOW Malaysia KDU, having acquired the four campuses of KDU University College from Malaysian private education provider Paramount Corporation Berhad (PCB) in 2018.
There are now approximately 18,000 UOW and UOW College students studying across these campuses and at UOW in Dubai, which has been operating for 26 years and is preparing to move into a new purpose-built campus in 2020.
“Our growth internationally has been strong and these operations are largely unaffected by the current limitations in Chinese student mobility.
“The prospects for further growth in these offshore campuses are very positive for us.
“Our strong economic and financial position, prudent financial management, diversity in onshore international student enrolments and offshore growth will help shield UOW and the Illawarra— as far as possible—from significant longer term economic impacts of COVID-19.
“In a rapidly changing global marketplace the University of Wollongong has a strong role to play in driving the economic regeneration and diversification of the Illawarra, Shoalhaven, South Coast, Southern Highlands, South West Sydney and NSW more broadly.
“With our communities, the University looks ahead to create a positive future from the new opportunities that will arise,” Professor Wellings said.