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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)

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