Manchester is the economic engine of the North West and the regional centre for finance, commerce, retail, culture and leisure. The economy has been growing at an average rate of just under 3% per annum for the past decade and is forecast to accelerate over the next decade. More than 140,000 people are currently employed within the city centre, a number which is projected to rise consistently over the next five years. The city is also a leading hub of the UK's Northern Powerhouse agenda to promote growth and regeneration outside London and the South East.
Manchester's economic growth has been driven by the rapid expansion of a number of sectors including commercial and professional services, science and research, culture and media, advanced manufacturing and information and communications technology (ICT). It is now one of the top European cities for business location.
It is also a centre of excellence for research and learning and boasts one of the largest student populations in Europe. It is home to several higher education institutions including the University of Manchester, the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), the Royal Northern College of Music, the Central Manchester University Hospitals and the University Hospital of South Manchester. The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University alone have over 64,000 students between them – around 12.5% of the city's population.
Manchester benefits from excellent transport links both nationally and internationally with Manchester Airport (the largest in England outside the south east) being the primary international gateway for the North of England.