“At Sydney we’ve always been deeply committed not only to producing world-class teaching and research, but ensuring our contribution helps the community around us," Dr Spence said.
"This has never been more important than during crises like that created by COVID-19.”
The University today released figures showing the contribution made by University to the national and state economies, including details of the potential impact of COVID-19.
Independent economists ACIL Allen Consulting, who authored the report commissioned by the University of Sydney, said that in 2019, the University of Sydney alone contributed $5.3 billion to the NSW economy and $5.9 billion to the national economy. Since 2006, the university has contributed $68.3 billion to the Australian economy.
Last year that contribution helped support the equivalent of almost 31,300 full-time jobs in NSW and over 35,600 nationally. Those jobs are outside of the university and found across the economy, including in retail, construction, tourism, real estate and hospitality.
Dr Spence said universities played an important role in safeguarding and bolstering the national economy.
“Universities contribute billions into our economy through support for local businesses, investment in projects, capital works and the creation of start-ups. What happens on our campus has a positive impact across the whole country.
“While we get some funding from government, around 30 percent of our revenue, we generate the vast majority of our income ourselves. Our work educating future leaders and leading critical research, also helps strengthen the state and national economies and jobs market."
ACIL Allen found that every dollar spent on research at our university generated an extra $7.82 in the economy, and research activities from 2019 were set to add close to $2.2 billion to the national economy.
“We’ve all seen how critical Australia’s research has been in helping us deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Our leading experts in public health, infectious disease and clinical care are working non-stop for the benefit of the country and they will be just as important in the recovery phase.”
ACIL Allen also looked at the impact COVID-19 has had. They warned that the state economy risks a loss of $2.6 billion and 12,100 jobs in 2020 and over the next ten years because of the downturn this year in international enrolments and associated reduction in the university’s operating and capital expenditure. Most of this impact will occur in 2020 and 2021 however the impact on jobs could last until 2030.
Dr Spence called for more support for the higher education sector in Australia.
“This new data only covers the University of Sydney, and I know many of my colleagues across the country are equally proud of their contribution. If we were to include all institutions within the higher education sector, the figures would indeed be staggering. What they show is that universities should be treated as important partners in the planning to get our economy back on track and Australians back to work.
“We need support and one of the most pressing needs is to help our sector plan for the safe arrival of the thousands of international students who believe Australia is the best place to further their education.
“This will be complex and require all levels of government and the private sector, including airlines, to work together, but their return is a key factor in helping universities recover and getting the economy booming again so people can go back to work. Of course, any return must be within the context of the COVID-19 health guidelines which have made Australia the envy of the world.
“We’re also seeking funding certainty for our researchers and opportunities to partner on job-creating infrastructure projects.”