UUK response to poll on public support for HE

An Ipsos MORI survey published today shows strong backing from the general public for continued investment in higher education.

The survey also reveals backing for the wider benefits that universities and colleges provide.

The survey found that:  

  • 90 per cent of respondents thought that it was important for the Government to invest in UK universities.
  • 86 per cent of respondents thought a university education was worthwhile these days.
  • 89 per cent agreed that universities contribute to advances in science, technology and healthcare; only three per cent disagreed.
  • 57 per cent thought that people like them could access the services and facilities provided by universities; over a quarter (27 per cent) disagreed.
  • 55 per cent thought that university students should contribute financially towards their own education.

Nearly half of all respondents (45 per cent) reported that they had never had any contact with a university (or studied at a university). A quarter of those surveyed (25 per cent) had themselves studied at a UK university.

On funding, the survey found the following:

  • 80 per cent thought that Government funding should increase or stay the same
  • Less than one in ten (8%) thought that funding should decrease
  • The number of people wanting funding for higher education to be maintained or increased outnumbers those wanting cuts by more than ten to one.
  • Of those who believe funding should increase, the most common reasons given were: the important role of universities in the UK's economy and society; widening access/equal access to universities.

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "It is really encouraging for us to see such a high level of support for the UK's universities - especially considering the large numbers of those surveyed who have never had contact with a university before.  

"It is more important than ever than the public gets behind us to ensure our universities are safeguarded for the future. Our universities have a vital role to play in the future growth of the UK economy. 

"Despite the majority of findings being very positive, the survey revealed that we need to do more to ensure people know about the services and facilities provided by universities. For example, the range of support services that universities offer businesses or the three quarters of a million free public lectures that universities put on every year."

The survey drawn from a representative sample of 2,003 adults aged 15 years and over across Great Britain was designed to discover levels of public support for investment in HE and awareness of benefits that HE brings to the wider society.

The survey was conducted as part of the Universities UK-led 'What's the big idea?' campaign, which culminated in the first ever Universities Week this year.

Further information:

  1. The initial report 'Public benefits of higher education to the UK' by Ipsos MORI will be available to download from the Universities UK website from 9am on Wednesday 15 September 2010. The final report will be published next month. Please contact the Universities UK press office on 020 7419 5424 or email pressunit@universitiesuk.ac.uk if you have any queries.
  2. Fieldwork was conducted by Ipsos MORI and a total of 2,003 British adults (England, Scotland and Wales) aged 15 years and over interviewed on the Capibus survey. Fieldwork was conducted face-to-face in-home using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) equipment across 169 sampling points between 31 July and 6 August 2010. A quota sample of respondents was interviewed and the survey data weighted to the known population profile 
  3. The fieldwork was preceded by a pilot study among 11 respondents to ensure that people understood the questions. As a result of the pilot the term 'universities' was used as it was widely understood to represent higher education.  
  4. The Higher Education Funding Council for England commissioned the survey to inform the ongoing Universities UK-led campaign to change public perceptions about the value and benefits of higher education by establishing a robust baseline of public perceptions.

Facts about higher education

Higher education institutions (HEIs) generate £59 billion for the UK economy annually, including £32.4 billion generated in other sectors through knock-on effects, making them larger than either the pharmaceutical or advertising industries.

Universities are one of the nation's biggest earners of foreign currency, bringing in more than £5.8 billion a year in tuition fees, transnational enterprises and other activities.

Universities are major employers, often the largest in their locality, and employ over 300,000 people in both academic and support roles across the UK.

For every 100 jobs created within universities, a further 100 are created in the wider economy by a 'knock-on' process - for example, businesses which cater to the student population - generating over 660,000 jobs throughout the UK economy.

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