Brighton’s two universities are worth more than £1 billion to the economy, according to a report.
Researchers found that the universities had a combined student population of 32,700.
Those students spent more than £150 million on rent, food, clothes, entertainment, travel and other goods and services in 2009 alone.
The universities also provided more than 4,000 direct jobs, making them among the biggest employers in Brighton and Hove.
It is believed that the universities’ economic contribution supported 12,000 jobs in total in the south east. Again, most of those were in Brighton and Hove.
The study is the first to examine the economic impact of two universities on one city and was commissioned jointly by the universities.
It was written by Ursula Kelly and Professor Iain McNicoll from Strathclyde University in Glasgow.
Both Sussex and Brighton have major building programmes under way, creating employment and boosting spending in and outside the universities.
Sussex is in the middle of a £100 million development programme at its Falmer campus, which includes new research, teaching, and residential buildings.
Brighton has started a major revamp of student digs at the Varley halls of residence in Coldean and is building a new sports hall and two £50 million-plus education and science buildings.
The universities also jointly run the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, which attracts students from all over the world.
The study said that the universities were clearly important for the educational opportunities that they provided but were also vitally important to their regions as large businesses.
Professor Michael Farthing, vice-chancellor at Sussex, welcomed the report said: “Research expenditure at both universities has grown over the past few years, leading to the employment of enormously skilled and talented individuals and the promise of substantial future economic impact as much of the research will be commercialised.”
Professor Julian Crampton, vice-chancellor at Brighton, said: “In these economically challenging times it is crucial to show how important universities are, both nationally and locally.
“Their impact is considerable.
“Student spending alone is significant and we are seeing a growing number of international students coming here, while the number of visitors attracted to the city because of the student population is also increasing.
“All this has a positive impact on local businesses and services.”
Both universities have received record numbers of applications this year and the report said universities were “increasingly recognised as a core part of the national and regional economic infrastructure, generating employment and output, attracting export earnings and contributing to the gross domestic product”.
It added: “In summary, this study of the two universities has shown them to make a substantial contribution to the economy of the south east and to be of core economic importance to the Brighton and Hove area.”