Fraser Of Allander Report
01 November 2023

College graduates will boost Scotland’s economy by £52 billion over their working lives

New research shows the Scottish economy will be £52 billion better off cumulatively over the 40-year working life of college graduates.

The report from the Fraser of Allander Institute shows that over their working life, college graduates boost employment, increase real wages and contribute to increased trade and investment.

Researchers studied the impact of the 2016-17 to 2021-22 college graduate cohorts, and calculated that every college graduate in Scotland creates an additional £72,000 boost to productivity for the Scottish economy as a result of going to college. These graduates also help to support the equivalent of an additional 203,000 full-time jobs in the Scottish economy, over their 40-year working lives.

Colleges bring the added benefit of directly providing the equivalent of 10,700 full-time jobs, and they support a further 4,400 jobs elsewhere in the economy through their supply chain spending.

For just the class of 2021-22, the Scottish Government invested £740 million into colleges, which is projected to lead to a £8 billion boost to the Scottish economy, and a £2.8 billion boost to government revenues over the coming 40-year period.

The analysis also discusses the important contribution colleges are making to the priorities for the Scottish economy.

The report features a case study on how Edinburgh College is supporting regional economic development through digital transformation via the innovative Digital Care Hub.  

This report shows the huge economic value that colleges deliver for the Scottish economy and the incredible return on investment they represent. I’m delighted to see our College’s Digital Care Hub showcased in the report as an example of an innovative approach that addresses distinct labour market need in our region and supports our local economic ecosystem to develop. As some of Scotland’s most important regional anchor institutions, colleges serve not just as places of social sanctuary and cultural diversity, but also of economic innovation for the communities they serve. At Edinburgh College, we’re determined to continue to expand our economic impact, through the courses and training we deliver for individuals and by supporting businesses in the region to upskill and reskill their staff.
Audrey Cumberford, Edinburgh College Principal
This research demonstrates the important and unique contribution that colleges make to the skills system and the Scottish economy overall. The analysis in this report highlights the value that skilling up the population – which leads to income and productivity gains - can have in the long-run, and the longer-term benefits this can bring to economic growth and government revenue. Interestingly, the study also highlights the role that colleges play in bringing educational opportunities to those from diverse backgrounds and across all parts of Scotland. Colleges are an important part of reducing inequalities in Scotland.
Mairi Spowage, Director of the Fraser of Allander Institute

The research was commissioned by College Development Network (CDN) and Colleges Scotland. It shows the value college graduates make to the national and local economy, and the benefits that students gain from a college qualification, either for the first time or by re-training and upskilling.

College Development Network (CDN) welcomes this important report. The research was commissioned by CDN and Colleges Scotland to evidence the critical value our colleges make to Scotland’s economic wellbeing, and the importance of having strong governance and highly-skilled and trained staff in colleges across the whole of Scotland. The report underlines the value and importance of our colleges in helping learners from all backgrounds achieve their potential. The study shows that colleges are uniquely placed in providing access to further and higher education for everyone. The high-quality learning and teaching that colleges provide equip their learners with the skills to fulfil their potential, enrich their communities and contribute to regional prosperity. Colleges use digital innovation, knowledge exchange and industry partnerships to enable the development of a skilled workforce that is supporting the economy and helping to deliver the National Strategy for Economic Transformation.
Marie Hendry, Chief Executive of CDN
Colleges create wealth in the Scottish economy, pure and simple. This research comes soon after Audit Scotland warned that investment in colleges has dropped for colleges by 8.5% over recent years. Colleges are an excellent place for investment as the returns are so rich – it’s not just the evidence published today of increased wealth in society, which is significant, but also the role that colleges have as community anchors and as places where care-experienced students and people trying to move out of poverty can grasp great opportunities. Now more than ever, employers need skilled workers to enter and stay in the workforce to increase Scotland’s productivity. College graduates underpin the success of large parts of Scottish society – like providing skilled, qualified care home staff – and our economy, in training workers to tackle the climate emergency. This research highlights the real need to support colleges now and into the future. Funding is falling for 24 colleges in Scotland – doing more with less year-on-year isn’t viable any more. I hope this study drives home the need for sustainable, stable investment in the college sector. Society can’t function without skilled people working in construction, in cyber security, in hospitality and across creative industries - college graduates truly are the lifeblood of Scotland’s workforce and economy, and when colleges thrive, Scotland thrives.
Shona Struthers, CEO of Colleges Scotland