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Degrees of Value: How Universities Benefit Society

Shaheen, F. Degrees of value: How universities benefit society. New Economics Foundation, London, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-904882-98-5. Pages: 35.

The latest publication from the New Economics Foundation, a London-based think-thank, and Universities UK asserts that university performance should not only consist of indicators such as economic returns to graduates and the greater economy. Rather, it notes that the social impact of higher education institutions yields positive and profitable benefits to society at large. The report relies on the Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology and uses case studies from two UK universities – Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Warwick – to examine and quantify the social benefits of higher education institutions.

Namely, the report stresses that three social outcomes – greater political interest, higher interpersonal trust and better health – produce GBP 1.31 billion (EUR billion) in returns to UK society.

The report also issues three key recommendations for universities to further maximise their social impact:

  • the encouragement of university-community activities (e.g. student volunteerism, and the creation of cultural events and facilities to bring together the greatest level of social and economic diversity);
  • the adoption of institution-wide policies (i.e. in the form of terminology and practises) to communicate with local communities and the general public and
  • increasing university access for under-represented groups from various social-economic backgrounds to promote social mobility.

Universities UK