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Measuring the volume and value of the outputs of higher education institutions

Kelly, Ursula and McNicoll, Iain (2009) Measuring the volume and value of the outputs of higher education institutions. Fraser of Allander Economic Commentary, 33 (1). pp. 55-59. ISSN 2046-5378

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Abstract

One of the key issues facing the Scottish Government and Scottish Funding Council is how to assess the contribution made to Scotland's economy by Scotland's higher education sector. Higher Education's contribution to the economy and society at large is viewed as providing one of the most important justifications for government expenditure on higher education. However there is a paucity of robust quantitative evidence against which related resource allocation decisions aimed at encouraging economically valuable activity can be made. Taking higher education activity as a whole there has been no practical, valid, way to analyse the economic value of what universities do, or to compare the value thus created with that generated by other activities in the economy. The overall objective of this paper is to show how the development of a framework with comprehensive and detailed quantitative measures of the outputs of HEIs in both volume and value terms can enable a holistic analysis of higher education institutions' economic value. The present paper draws on initial case study research supported by the Nuffield Foundation which was further elaborated in two substantive reports to the Scottish Funding Council.