Universities and other higher education institutions (HEIs) have come to be regarded as key sources of knowledge utilisable in the pursuit of economic growth. Although there have been numerous studies assessing the economic and innovation impact of HEIs, there has been little systematic analysis of differences in the relative contribution of HEIs across regions. With this paper we provide an exploration of some of these differences in the context of the UK's regions. Significant differences are found in the wealth generated by universities according to regional location and type of institution. Universities in more competitive regions are generally more productive than those located in less competitive regions. Also, traditional universities are generally more productive than their newer counterparts, with university productivity positively related to knowledge commercialisation capabilities. Weaker regions tend to be more dependent on their universities for income and innovation, but often these universities underperform in comparison with counterpart institutions in more competitive regions. We argue that uncompetitive regions lack the additional knowledge infrastructure, besides universities, which is more commonly a feature of competitive regions.