uUniversities like to be measured by their academic achievements. On the other hand, their economic importance for the respective locations is not well-examined. An analysis of the fourteen public universities in North Rhine-Westphalia shows this in an aggregated form. In detail, the German-Austrian Economica Institute collected this economic footprint for the University of Bonn on their behalf. Bonn is one of eleven universities of excellence in Germany and has produced more Nobel Prize winners and Fields Medalists than any other German university in recent decades.
Accordingly, the traditional educational institution stands for a direct gross value added (GVA) of 435 million euros and a total GVA of 700 million euros. It thus contributes every fortieth euro of gross value added in Bonn. Almost seven and a half thousand teachers, administrative staff and technical staff work at the University of Bonn. Indirectly, it secures a total of around 10,700 jobs in its entire supply and service network. The number of employees at the University of Bonn exceeds the total population of Bonn-Poppelsdorf, for example. Overall, every 25th job in Bonn is linked to the university.
Third largest employer in Bonn
This makes the university the third-largest employer in Bonn itself, apart from public administration. Christian Helmenstein, head of the Economica Institute, points out in an interview with the FAZ that Bonn has a strong position in the humanities and thus compared to technically oriented competitors such as Karlsruhe, Aachen and Munich have significantly fewer university spin-offs. Nevertheless, it is on an equal footing with the leading global companies listed in the Dax, Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Post.
Due to the high proportion of university graduates, employees achieve above-average incomes, which provide a significant boost to purchasing power. The network of the University of Bonn represents every 25th euro that is generated in Bonn. Accordingly, there is a tax and duty revenue close to the entire lottery tax revenue in North Rhine-Westphalia, as Economica writes. In terms of added value and employment, the university is also of crucial importance for the neighboring districts. The national and regional importance of the investment performance of the excellence institution is also documented by the fact that the value added remaining in Germany is four percentage points higher than the overall economic average.
“Europe alone cannot stop climate change”
Under the assumption of a planned, controversial relocation of the teaching activities of the Catholic theological, the Protestant theological and the philosophical faculty to the Bonn periphery, far-reaching economic and socio-demographic consequences arise. The University in the Electoral Palace is not only economically important for the city of Bonn as a whole, but above all for its city center: the relocation of teaching for 10,158 students to the periphery endangers at least 170 jobs and almost 15 million euros in gross value added per year in Bonn Downtown.
Art and culture, entertainment and recreation, retail and gastronomy would be particularly affected. In addition, the average age of the inner-city resident population would increase significantly. “A fully compensatory dynamic of the peripheral location compared to the current dynamic of the inner city is not to be expected,” economist Helmenstein points out the problematic consequences. While structures that have grown in the city center would be significantly impaired, a comparable development of service offerings is not to be expected there due to the temporary nature of university activities and the limited spatial planning development potential, for example in the north of Bonn”. A foreseeable reverse development of the city center is thus opposed to a probably rudimentary development potential at the peripheral location.
Safety aspects must also be taken into account. After all, a center with a major construction site that would not be open to the public for a decade would potentially attract crime. Helmenstein wonders why the city government is not using the courtyard garden meadow adjacent to the university productively.
“You could see it as an opportunity. Because you could use it to design a successfully scalable model project”. After all, it is about the central issue of climate policy, whether an adaptation strategy is superior to an avoidance strategy, argues the economist: “Europe cannot stop climate change on its own. But the continent can develop and export adaptation strategies.” From Econmica’s point of view, a solution at the previous location would also minimize another risk – the actual duration of the construction work, which the planners themselves put at ten years: “In times of high inflation, this could result in considerable increases in construction costs. Building codes may change. In the end, there could be a vicious circle if the construction time is exceeded – as Germany already had enough deterrent examples with the airport in Berlin, Stuttgart 21 and the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg”.