University of Alberta education and research provides a multi-billion dollar asset to the Albertan economy, according to figures from a new study.
Anthony Briggs, an assistant professor in the Department of Strategic Management and Organization, and Jennifer Jennings, an associate professor in the same department, estimate the U of A’s economic impact on the province at $12.3 billion.
This figure comes from a recent report developed out of a broader study designed to quantify the impact of university alumni.
“We started on a different, broader project — we were interested in entrepreneurship, innovation (and) family business at the University of Alberta … MIT and Stanford have done those kinds of studies, and so we were looking to essentially match to the in-progress Stanford study,” Briggs said.
“We were discussing that with the university, and this kind of came about because MIT and Stanford didn’t do an actual economic impact study, whereas some of our peer Canadian institutions had. We thought, ‘(We) might as well do this just as a base while we’re preparing for the much broader project.’ ”
Although the broader research project is supported by the U of A, Briggs said the particular economic impact study that came out of it was not commissioned by the university.
Aside from some alumni data Briggs and Jennings received from the university, the entire report is based upon publicly available data.
“We presented that data to the university administration, and they found it very interesting — as did we,” Briggs said.
Jennings added that when building the report, she and Briggs followed the exact methods put in place from some of the peer Canadian universities who had done the study.
“We (wanted to) say, ‘Following their exact same approach, these are the numbers that we get,’ and that enabled us to draw some very firm comparisons against some of the other Canadian universities,” she explained.
Briggs said that a number of different impacts could be taken from the study and its comparison to similar studies.
To explain the U of A’s direct impact on the economy, Briggs said it’s best to look at the University of British Columbia.
“We’re pretty similar in size to UBC, so that sort of looks more like the spending number — there’s a few slight differences there, but very comparable to UBC,” he said.
However, the U of A’s education premium — something determined when a graduate participates in higher levels of economic activity than a non-graduate — is much larger than the UBC’s.
“The U of A is very strong there because it has a very large alumni base, and people essentially have much higher salaries in Alberta,” Briggs explained.
“This only includes within-region impact, so if an alumn(us) has left (Alberta), they’re not included in the report. It’s kind of a very good ‘by Alberta, for Alberta’ story here.”
The second difference from UBC, according to the report, is research impact — which Briggs says is harder to measure.
“The University of Alberta is a much larger player research-wise within the province than other institutions are within their provinces, so we get a bigger share of the R&D pie than others,” Briggs said.
He added that the fact the U of A has more professional programs than some other universities also affects its measurable economic impact.
“(Our study doesn’t) show that, but we think there’s an effect there. The big story is that universities are not put on the same page, so this is the first time we’ve put them on the same page and said, ‘We need to do more of this,’ ” he said.
“This is sort of a first cut, but there’s lots and lots of ways we can basically start to look at universities’ performance(s), and how they do what they do at a more granular level. (That) is what we’re arguing for.”
With files from Teddy Carter.
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