And the five top seats of learning are estimated to contribute a staggering £1billion to the city's economy.
The huge figures are revealed in a new report by London-based Jeremy Leach Research on behalf of Alumno Developments.
The property firm has just been given the go-ahead to build a purpose-built block for 174 students on Dumbarton Road.
Researchers were hired to investigate the impact of students on Glasgow based on data from Glasgow, Strathclyde and Caledonian universities, Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
It also included estimates of the contributions made by further education colleges which offer courses at degree level.
They found there are almost 67,000 students in higher education in Glasgow – more than 11% of the population of the city.
When the 16,725 higher education staff in Glasgow are taken into account, the figure rises to a remarkable 14%.
The report says: "Although this proportion of students in the population is well below the levels for specialist university towns such at St Andrews, Cambridge or Oxford, it is the highest level for any city with a population of over 500,000."
The numbers of international students in higher education in Glasgow has increased by more than half in the last 15 years, far higher than for the rest of the UK, which has recorded a rise of 26% since 1995.
And according to the research document, Glasgow is winning the battle to become a successful city in the knowledge-based economy.
As well as educating large numbers of students in its higher education institutions, it is retaining them as graduates and benefiting from the cash boost they deliver.
The report states: "To remain competitive and to grow successfully, cities need to attract graduates to work in order to build the skills that are essential in an increasingly knowledge- based economy.
"While Glasgow still struggles with high levels of deprivation and a large pool of residents with low levels of qualifications, it is now better able to balance this with higher than average proportions of residents and workers educated to degree level."
Research based on data from 2007 suggests Glasgow offers an attractive home for its students once they have graduated, with students from other parts of Strathclyde and international students particularly likely to stay on.
The document says: "There is evidence Glasgow is succeeding in retaining those who study in the city as graduates.
"Although only 19% of those who study in Glasgow come from the city itself, 42% of graduates settle there after they finish their studies.
"Maintaining and increasing these levels of retention of students is vital to the city's competitiveness."
Research shows students in full-time higher education each spend on average £6500 a year, with part-time students – many of whom also work – spending an average £11,000 a year.
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick said: "We have known for some time that higher education, particularly with the growth of overseas students, is vitally important to Glasgow's economy - but this is a helpful study adding some new insights on the entire sector.
"It provides some very useful information previously unavailable. For example we note that, contrary to worries in some Glasgow communities that they have a disproportionate number of students, there is a fairly even spread.
"In fact nowhere does it exceed 8% of the population. It is to be hoped this will allay concerns, particularly in the West End, about the number of much-needed student accommodation developments now seeking and achieving planning permission close to Glasgow University.
"We need a supply of well-qualified graduates, especially in sectors like engineering where demand exceeds supply, and clearly one of the challenges is ensuring the experience of Glasgow is a good one.
"That includes a high standard of accommodation in a modern flat rather than a damp basement."
Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, said: "Students have, for many years, played a massive part in the ongoing success of our city.
"Glasgow has a lot to offer to everyone, from international visitors to local residents, throughout the year, so it's no surprise so many graduates choose to remain here.
"Our universities and colleges are, rightfully, respected as centres of excellence not only for their research, but also the calibre of graduates they produce.
"The excellent reputations earned by both the city and our higher education institutions means that Glasgow is the perfection location for modern students."
Alumno Developments managing director David Campbell said: "In support of our successful application for the Dumbarton Road development, we felt it was helpful to provide further context to highlight the wider-reaching economic impact that a well-managed and maintained student accommodation development can provide – not only supporting the process of continuing to attract the best students to the city, but also ensuring local areas gain maximum benefit.
"Our independently commissioned report highlights the important role the education sector and indeed students play in the everyday economics of Glasgow – 5% of the city's annual GDP is a highly significant statistic.
"Glasgow hosts some of the best centres for learning in the UK and students from all over the world will continue to be attracted to the city and enjoy all it has to offer.
"We believe by having the necessary infrastructure in place to support this process, the city will continue to thrive and benefit for the long term and it will help establish Glasgow as an attractive destination both during and after university."
Of the £500m total spent by higher education students:
n £120m goes on entertainment
n £108m is spent on housing
n £87m on personal goods
n £76m on food
It is estimated the city's 10,000 international students – 15% of the student body – are contributing more than £73m a year in off-campus expenditure.