How much are students worth to local economies?

Richard Jenkins, Experian

Experian’s Richard Jenkins headed the research.

While students are often typecast as being ‘low on money’ it is probably something of a surprise that their presence in university-centric towns and cities is worth millions of pounds to the local economy.

In fact, with an average estimated individual spend of over £11,000* each year, and a combined spending power in excess of £19.7bn, the student market has a significant economic impact. Experian forecasts put the combined annual UK student spend figure at approximately £20 billion** by 2017.

Experian Mosaic has revealed that many town centres up and down the country have significant areas of buy-to let properties which are almost exclusively inhabited by students. These areas, dubbed ‘UniLand’, play a vital role in the economic prosperity of these towns. Following a quiet summer, the return of the student population (and their disposal income) will see many shops and leisure facilities enjoy a much needed upsurge in business.

According to ONS data, in the UK, overall student spending power has increased by over £655 million during the last ten years. For a number of towns, such as Manchester, Oxford and Nottingham, the imported spending power of large numbers of students strengthens the local economy significantly during term time. In Nottingham, for example, the student population has increased by almost 7,000 extra students since 2003 increasing their projected ‘Uniland’ spending power by in excess of £56 million over the same time period.

The Experian insights also reveal that these ‘Uniland’ areas will see a dramatic increase in internet usage during term time. Students are prolific users of the internet, and they are also the most likely to use their smartphones to check social media and shop online compared to the national average.

Understanding the demographics and spending power within any city or town and how this changes over the course of the year is essential insight for businesses, helping them to reach the right customers at the right time. Retailers and consumer brands, in particular, can draw on this data to help them to identify the most appropriate locations for their stores and where to market particular services or offers.  People themselves also benefit through being provided with relevant information about the products and services that they are actually interested in and these Uniland populations are no exception.

What are your thoughts? Do the UniLand statistics surprise you? Let us know in the comments below.

*Average weekly expenditure per student taken from the ONS Living Costs and Food Survey for the period 2003-2012.

**After converting the ONS data to an annual series of expenditures the value was grown each year to 2017, in line with the annual growth in expenditure in the ‘Study Buddies’ Experian Mosaic Economics type forecast. ONS figures for student population by higher education institution for the UK and the three featured universities up to 2013 were then grown forward to 2017, based on average annual growth rates in the 2003–2013 period. Finally the total spend of all students in the UK and featured universities was calculated on a per week and annual basis, by multiplying the populations by the per week and per year expenditures.

This story was featured on The Retail Times, The Drum and This Is Money.

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