Wollongong has long been classified as a steel city, but a new report released yesterday shows that it is fast becoming a university city.
The study, UOW: Leading Locally, Competing Globally, reveals that the University of Wollongong is now the region's third largest exporter behind mining and steel.
Annually, UOW-related activities generate $1.37 billion in regional economic output, with $659 million added to Gross Regional Product.
It is one of the top five employers in the region with 2350 employees who receive $250 million in wages and salaries, although many more are indirectly employed in areas like construction and maintenance.
Meanwhile, $673 million goes directly into the regional economy from the expenditure of international and non-local students, government grants and contracts and other external sources.
UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings said the study showed Wollongong was emerging as a university city.
"The steel industry underpinned the regional economy for most of the 20th century but in the 21st century it is clear that the University of Wollongong also is a major driver of economic activity and employment opportunities in the region," he said.
The UOW study, independently verified, is the first comprehensive study of the university's economic and social contribution to the region, state and the nation. The results speak volumes.
It shows that nationally UOW-related activities generate more than $2 billion in economic activity annually - contributing $1.12 billion to Gross Domestic Product.
The university's activities generate almost 8000 jobs and $607 million in household income nationwide.
UOW graduates add another $1.34 billion to the national economy through increased wages and additional taxes.
The study also shows that UOW provided a good investment: it found that every $1 in federal government investment in 2011 resulted in $7 in overall economic output.
Prof Wellings said as well as providing an economic snapshot of the university in 2013, the study highlighted the increasingly important role it would play in shaping the region's economic future.
"This report scales what the consequence is of having a university in Wollongong," he said.
"We know the Illawarra is an economy in transition. There are quite rightly concerns about where the jobs of the future are going to come from, and what are the long-term consequences of both the coal industry and the steel industry.
"What this report tells us is that we have a third leg of the stool ... we have got a component now for a knowledge-based economy that sits alongside these rather important sectors.
"So it gives a sense of what we have achieved to date, and what are the opportunities for new industries and new jobs."
The study was conducted in the second half of 2012 by the university's Centre for Small Business and Regional Research and the methodology used has been verified by Deloitte Access Economics.