Universities New Zealand released a new Deloitte Access Economics report that assesses the benefits of international collaboration between New Zealand and overseas universities. It finds that collaboration on joint research, and the active encouragement of staff and student exchanges between them, bring strong economic benefits for the public.

The report, Assessing returns on international collaboration, was commissioned from Deloitte Access Economics by Universities New Zealand in order to get a better understanding of how international collaborations of all types can benefit New Zealand. The sorts of international collaboration activities assessed have a good economic return over a fifteen-year period as they are shown to generate knowledge and ideas that transfer to businesses and government and that, in turn, lift economic activity.

“We know that there are significant benefits to be had from collaborating with overseas partners, but until now it has been relatively difficult to quantify just what those benefits are, and how they translate to the wider economy and society,” says Universities New Zealand Executive Director, Chris Whelan.

“New Zealand taxpayers pay for a fair proportion of this collaboration activity through Government funding. It is important for us to be able to defend this investment and to prove its value.”

The key economic returns from every $1 invested into international collaboration after 15 years are:

  • $2.46: International research collaboration – where academics and research teams from separate countries jointly produce academic research.
  • $0.61: Academic mobility – where academic researchers physically move across borders, including both short-term exchanges and more-permanent migration. While it delivers an unfavourable return, there are other non-economic benefits such as a positive impact on international rankings.
  • $1.06: Student flows – where international collaboration initiatives impact student flows between countries, covering both one and two semester exchanges and degree-length exchanges.
  • $5.87: Work placement programmes – where students studying abroad undertake internships with local businesses. These can be thought of as an extension of the benefits of from student flows.

The report identified a wide range of other benefits from these collaboration activities where the economic benefit could not be reliably estimated. These other benefits include growing people-to-people links, fostering trade, supporting diplomatic links, and raising the profile of New Zealand more broadly.

“The other interesting finding in the report is that the vast majority of the economic benefit arising from international research collaboration goes to businesses that commercialise the resulting intellectual property and to government and taxpayers through increased tax revenue. Similarly, the vast majority of the benefits from student flows and work placement programmes goes to the students who enjoy better employment prospects and higher incomes and then on to the Government and taxpayers also through increased tax revenue.

“As the report notes, there is a significant opportunity for the Government to increase their support for international collaboration opportunities, given the clear returns from this sort of activity,” says Chris Whelan.

The full report is available on the Universities New Zealand website, HERE.

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