According to the study, launched as part of a week of events designed to highlight Welsh universities’ contribution to growth, the sector generates around 3 per cent of the country’s employment and gross domestic product.
The report, written by Viewforth Consulting and commissioned by Higher Education Wales, found that £1 billion of the total figure comes from off-campus spending by students, while international students generate £400 million in export earnings for Wales.
Ursula Kelly, director of Viewforth and a visiting scholar in the department of economics at the University of Strathclyde, said it demonstrated the sector was “generating economic output, jobs, GDP and supporting communities across the country”.
Today a week-long campaign, called Welsh Universities – Driving Growth, will be launched at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff.
Some figures in Wales have questioned whether the country’s universities are performing as well as those in other parts of the UK.
In 2012, Angela Burns, the Conservative shadow minister for education in Wales, asked during a debate why the country had no universities in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, yet Scotland had five.
According to 2007-11 figures, just five university spin-off companies were formed in Wales, compared to 70 in Scotland and 346 in England.
Leighton Andrews, the Welsh minister for education and skills, said that the Viewforth report contained “significant figures” and that the sector was “integral to driving the economy in Wales, supporting industry, research and innovation and generating employment”.