Home > Facts and stats > Impact of universities > Universities: what the public thinks

Universities: what the public thinks

Universities feature prominently in national and local media and in political debates, but what the public thinks about the sector has been largely absent from discussions.

In order to better understand the views of the public and to inform our communications and campaigning work, Universities UK commissioned Britain Thinks to carry out in-depth research into what the public thinks about our universities.

Through a combination of quantitative and qualitative studies, the research found that public sentiment is currently high, with 78% of those surveyed positive or neutral about universities. The public recognise the positive role universities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland play in the lives of individuals, communities and society. However, when the public thinks about universities and what they do, they mostly think about undergraduate teaching. This means that so much of what happens in our universities – from student volunteering, to research breakthroughs and support for businesses and community groups - is overlooked. As a result this hampers people’s ability to advocate for universities in their towns and regions.

The slide deck provides an overview of the research, focusing in particular on the perceptions of the 31% who identified as ‘neutral’. The presentation identifies their particular sentiments and level of awareness, and suggests the themes and messages which resonate most with this group. This analysis will be used to help UUK and our members to better understand how we increase awareness of the public good of the UK universities.
Public perceptions of UK universities (PDF)

 News

MadeAtUni

MadeAtUni: universities top 100 discoveries

6 December 2018
From technology that turns urine into electricity to care robots for the elderly, the MadeAtUni campaign celebrates the transformational impact of UK universities

New universities minister

5 December 2018
Universities UK comment on appointment of new Universities Minister

A ‘no deal’ Brexit: implications for universities and minimising risk

29 November 2018
At a Universities UK (UUK) conference to be held today, Thursday 29 November, delegates will consider how universities can address the implications of Brexit.

 Blog

Exploring solutions to ethnicity attainment gaps – one university's experience

5 December 2018
Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, shares recent experience of his institution's efforts to tackle the BAME attainment gap.

Addressing grade inflation: a statement of intent

28 November 2018
UUK's Charlotte Snelling on a new statement of intent for the sector to address the various factors behind grade inflation.

students group work

BME attainment: why universities must do more than 'mind the gap'

13 November 2018
Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of the University of West England, Bristol, on the initiatives his institution is running to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for BME students in the UK.