Profit in creating local appeal

October 11, 2002

Universities revitalise local economies, providing jobs and bringing students and their cash to town. The THES reports on their impact worldwide

Two very different Canadian universities, one from a lightly populated outlying region, the other in the country's urban epicentre, can both claim to have made an important impact on their local economies.

The Universite du Quebec a Chicoutimi is part of a 1960s social experiment that built universities in areas not traditionally known for higher learning. Before then, people in the Saguenay region would have gone to Montreal or Quebec City to study, and many would have ended up settling in those cities.

According to a study by Gilles Bergeron, Chicoutimi's vice-principal of administration and finance, it has kept many professionals in the region and has allowed the Saguenay to retain 75 per cent of local graduates. It has saved local families almost C$3,500 (£1,400) each a year by not having their offspring pursue a more costly out-of-town education.

The government and the private sector spend C$72 million to run the small university of 3,000 full-time students - a good investment. The university pumps C$58.6 million into the region and creates 1,633 jobs.

The University of Toronto contributes almost C$1 billion in economic activity to greater Toronto and is the 13th largest employer in the area. Eighty-nine companies have been created from technologies developed by the university's researchers, employing more than 3,250 people and posting annual revenues of more than C$419 million.

The university's Innovations Foundation attempts to commercialise Toronto's research. One of its most successful incubations is a biotechnology discovery that increases a plant's salt resistance and can recover the approximately 35 to 45 per cent of the world's farm land that is unusable because of high salt levels.

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