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The significant contribution of public universities

Valencian public universities generate almost 50,000 jobs and increase the average salary in the Valencian Community by 11%

[ 28/03/2024 ]

The Valencian public universities and their related activities generate an income of 2,715 million euros and 49,726 jobs in the Valencian Community, representing 2.2% of the GDP and 2.4% of employment in the region, according to the fifth report The socio-economic contributions of the Valencian public universities, compiled by the Ivie (Valencian Institute of Economic Research) Research Team and commissioned by the five Valencian public universities. (Video of the news)

According to the study, the Valencian public university system (SIUVP) returns 3.1 euros to society through the additional tax revenue its graduates generate for every euro that public administrations allocate to its management. Compared to the 933 million euros per year in current public transfers that the SIUVP receives, its graduates contribute 2,901 million euros more in taxes than they would have done without these university studies, as they have more jobs and earn higher incomes.

The five universities that make up the SIUVP - Universidad de Alicante, Universitat Jaume I de Castelló, Universitat Miguel Hernández, Universitat Politècnica de València and Universitat de València - accounted for 78.2% of undergraduate students, 44.9% of master's students, 93.5% of scientific production and 100% of national patents obtained by all universities in the region in the 2022-2023 academic year. Overall, public universities educate 70.4% of bachelor's and master's students. However, despite this majority, public institutions have lost ground to private universities.

The number of undergraduate students in the SIUVP has fallen by 22.2% since the 2010-2011 academic year, while the private system has increased its students by 113.5% over the same period. In the case of master's degrees, there has been a significant increase in demand in both cases. The number of students enrolled in master's courses at public universities in Valencia increased by 48.6% over the period analysed, a significant growth but less than that of private universities, which went from 13.5% of students in this type of programme to 55.1%.

To embrace their students and carry out their research, the public universities of Valencia have 12 campuses with 60 centres, including their own and affiliated centres, and a budget of 1,515 million euros for the academic year 2022-2023. This figure represents an increase of only 1.8% compared to the 2010-2011 academic year budget. 62% of the income comes from transfers from the public administration to cover the running costs of the institutions, another 22% from capital transfers to cover new investments, and the remaining 16% from other income, including tuition fees paid by students.

In total, the five institutions offer 234 bachelor's degrees, 339 master's degrees and 139 doctoral programmes. Over the period covered by the analysis, there has been a change in educational specialisation, with the percentage of enrolments in engineering and architecture falling by -6.6% (-5.8% at a national level), while the number of students opting for health sciences increased by 6.4% (7.4% in Spain). The report once again warns (as in the previous 2019 report) of the loss of students enrolling in Bachelor's or Master's degrees in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) despite the strong labour market demand for these graduates.

The factors that determine the choice of university have changed in recent years. Proximity has become less important, and the proliferation of private universities has increased competition. The SIUVP institutions have adapted their strategy to attract students with a high academic profile and promote the exclusivity of their degrees. In the 2022-2023 academic year, a quarter of the degrees offered by the SIUVP are exclusive, i.e., not provided by any other university. Exclusivity is highest in engineering and architecture (32%), followed by humanities (30.8%).

In terms of the strategy for attracting students, the increase in the number of students from outside the Valencian Community stands out. While in the 2010-2011 academic year, these students represented 10.1% of the total, in 2022-2013, their weight increased by 7.7 percentage points to 17.9%. The proportion of master's students from outside the community increased from 25.5% a decade ago to 36.2% in 2022-2023.

Mobility programmes, both national and international (Erasmus +, SICUE Exchange System between Spanish University Centres and other international programmes), have had a very positive impact on attracting students. In the 2022-2023 academic year, almost 6,000 undergraduate and 560 postgraduate students from other communities or abroad came to one of the SIUVP universities through mobility programmes. Their spending has a significant economic impact, representing 21.2 million euros in income for the Valencian Community and creating 610 jobs.

Other SIUVP contributions

In addition to the economic impact of the Valencian public universities, the report analyses their contribution in other aspects derived from their research and transfer activities. The SIUVP universities play a crucial role in generating qualified human capital and producing knowledge, surpassing their national counterparts in terms of responsibility. The higher education sector accounts for 42.7% of total investment in R&D in the Valencian Community, a percentage much higher than the national average (26%) and that of benchmark regions such as the Basque Country (16.8%), Madrid (18.7%) and Catalonia (19.8%).

Regarding SIUVP research activity, the volume of scientific publications has grown more than the national average, with the number of scientific articles doubling from 4,945 in 2010 to 10,080 in 2021. Practically all the research activity in the Valencian Community is carried out by public universities, which generated 95.8% of the scientific publications between 2010 and 2021. The Valencian public universities also stand out for their patenting activity. In 2021, 100% of the 39 national patents resulting from university research came from a SUPV institution. The evolution of SUPV patenting activity is more favourable than that of Spain as a whole. As a result, the share of SIUVP in the Spanish public university system (SUPE) has risen from 10% to 20% of national patents.

Universities and job quality

The study on the contribution of the Valencian public universities also reserves a chapter assessing the role of SIUVP in the quality of employment in the Valencian Community. To this end, the employment conditions of university graduates with post-compulsory secondary education or higher vocational training students have been compared. The results show that university graduates in the region have a higher percentage of permanent contracts in the private sector and a lower percentage of unwanted part-time employment than workers with post-compulsory secondary education (+4.2 and -2.8 percentage points, respectively). In addition, graduates are less likely to work long hours, earn higher salaries and are less dissatisfied with their working hours. They are less likely to be actively looking for another job, more likely to participate in lifelong learning, and to be in high-skilled jobs and telework.

However, not all indicators of job quality are positive for graduates, who are more likely to experience unpaid overtime, unplanned changes in working hours, work pressure and contact outside working hours than workers with post-compulsory secondary education.

The report also quantifies the contribution of SIUVP to average job quality in the area. Thanks to the contribution of SUPV in the Comunitat, the percentage of employees with undesirable part-time working hours is reduced by 0.8 percentage points, the weight of teleworking increases by 4.8 points, the percentage of employees in highly qualified occupations increases by 15.9 points and the rate of employees participating in lifelong learning increases by 3.5 points. In addition, the average salary in the Valencian Community is 11% higher due to the contribution of employees with SIUVP qualifications. It is estimated that without SUPV, the unemployment rate in the community would be 2 percentage points higher.

SIUVP is, therefore, a key player in the development of the community. A good higher education system provides a highly skilled workforce, fostering a productive, innovative, human capital-based business fabric. This, in turn, creates quality jobs and stimulates investment in higher education, thereby increasing economic resilience, especially in times of crisis.

The published report is the fifth in a series that began in 2009 and was followed by editions in 2013, 2015 and 2019. These documents, now updated with the new study, aim to show society the social and economic contributions made by the Valencian public universities through their teaching, research and transfer activities.

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