BritainThinks poll for Universities UK, part of detailed research
produced on public perceptions of higher education, shows that, contrary to
much of the political and media commentary, undergraduates and recent graduates
display positive feelings towards UK universities – as do UK adults from black,
Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
poll of 2,063 UK adults showed just 9% of the public feel negative towards
universities, with 48% saying they feel positive (with 31% saying they were
neutral and 13% saying “don’t know”). Furthermore 66% of people agreed with the statement that they would encourage their children to attend university.
there were other positive markers of public opinion too:
58% of people believe that
universities have a positive impact on the UK (only 4% disagree)
55% of people agree that people
who go to university can get better jobs than those that don’t (34%
70% of people agree that UK
universities are among the best in the world (only 11% disagree).
48% the public overall feel positive towards universities, and only 9%
negative, young people are more positive than older people:
55% of 18-24 year olds and 44% of 25-34 year
olds say universities have had a positive impact on them personally,
compared to 35% of people aged 65+
34% of 18-24 year olds say universities have
had a positive impact on their local community, compared to 26% of those
Young people are much more likely to disagree
with the statement “university degrees do not equip graduates with the
skills they need to be successful in the workplace” (35% of 18-24 year
olds disagree, compared to 24% of those aged 65+).
the last 18 months, there has been significant media coverage about university
access and attainment, particularly for ethnic minorities. This debate has
raised valid questions that the sector must deal with, and UUK is working
together with the NUS to help universities tackle the gap in BAME students’
achievements at university.
this poll also reveals that BAME communities have retained confidence in the
adults are much more likely to say that universities have a positive
impact on their family than white adults (60% compared to 43%)
adults are more likely to say that universities have a positive impact on
the UK as a whole than white people (68% compared to 57%)
Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the
University of Liverpool, said: “There is a myth that the public are sceptical
about the merits of universities – and that an increasingly large number of
young people think higher education is a waste of time. In fact, as this
research shows, the opposite is true. The public are hugely positive towards
universities and see the benefits of a university education. Crucially, this is
most true of those with direct experience of university – existing students and
recent graduates. That is one of the reasons why demand for university places
has remained high despite there being fewer 18-year-olds in the population.
need to work with the higher education sector to extend the number of people
accessing universities and to give more support for flexible learning,
promoting pride in what is a world-class sector, rather than creating new
Cooke, Founding Partner, BritainThinks, said: “BritainThinks is delighted to have
worked with Universities UK to understand current public attitudes towards
universities. In spite of a wave of negative media coverage, the public is
positive and proud of the sector, recognising its importance and contributions
to individuals, local communities and the nation. Crucially, in times of
uncertainty, the public is keen to hear more about the sector’s achievements.”
BritainThinks polled 2,063 UK adults online between 30 May and 31 May 2018.
Data were weighted to be representative of all UK adults.
University and student leaders launched a major
drive to improve the attainment and university experience of
black and minority ethnic students across the UK on 6 June 2018.