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

Dates confirmed for joint talks on future of USS pension scheme

8 January 2020
Five dates in January have been confirmed for senior stakeholders to meet and discuss reform to the USS pension scheme.

Joint talks on future of USS pension scheme announced

23 December 2019
​Discussions will take place at the start of the new year to agree the approach for progressing the JEP’s recommendations in relation to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

 Blog

three students working at a computer

How we communicate student finance needs a rethink

16 December 2019
NEON's Graeme Atherton explains why the cost of higher education needs to be communicated to students more effectively.

General election 2019: what the parties say on higher education

27 November 2019
UUK's Karmjit Kaur takes a look at the policy commitments on higher education in party manifestos ahead of the general election.

Seizing the opportunity to offer more people the chance of success through higher technical education

21 November 2019
UUK's Greg Wade on the 'missing middle' of level 4 and 5 qualifications, and shares UUK's recommendations for government.