A new study has revealed the University of Essex contributes almost £0.5billion to the regional economy.

Although it has long been known the university is of benefit to the area, it commissioned an Economic Impact Report to find out exactly what that benefit is.

It found that the university contributes £464million each year, including £52.3m spent by students off campus and £21.7m in business engagement, and supports 2,900 jobs above the 2,014 staff it directly employs.

Overall the university is estimated to have contributed £489.1m to the national economy in 2014-15.

University vice-chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said: “Our economic impact stems from our commitment to excellence in education and research – it is through our success that we make such an eye-wateringly large contribution to the East of England.

“I was surprised and delighted at the results.

“The headline figure is very striking, but I was also surprised to find we support more jobs than we directly employ, and that our students spend so much.

“I’m also delighted at the way the university works with business at the Knowledge Gateway.

“Underlying all of this is that we are one of the fastest-growing universities in the country, reflected in our planning application for the £18m Innovation Centre as part of the next stage of the Knowledge Gateway. This is a major commitment to working with businesses in the region and we hope to support 400 jobs as a result of this investment.

“In five years’ time that will allow us to see a very significant increase to what is an already substantial contribution the university is making.

“We want to use this report as a springboard to further develop our relationships.”

Professor Forster also emphasised the role of international students, which make up around one-third of the student body, allowing the university to be a beacon for the UK abroad.

The study was conducted by Dr Abhijit Sengupta at the Essex Business School, and also revealed the university’s annual turnover across its three campuses will be £205m for 2014-15.

Essex County Council leader David Finch said: “The University of Essex is a recognised asset to the county. It indirectly supports many jobs and businesses across the county, and attracts thousands of staff and students nationally and internationally, who make a significant and valued contribution to the local economy.”

Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, added: “The University of Essex is committed to supporting businesses, offering expert support for entrepreneurial SMEs, an excellent business school, knowledge transfer schemes and great opportunities for networking.”