Public believes HE will be important to UK’s recovery from Covid

A new survey conducted by Public First for University Alliance has found the public thinks Higher Education will be important to the UK’s recovery from Covid, and universities are playing a key role supporting the NHS during this crisis.

The survey was conducted as part of UA’s strategic planning to the recovery response, more information here 

The poll found that more than 7 in 10 people think that universities are going to play an important role in supporting the UK’s economic and social recovery post Covid, with improving scientific research for innovation and development (74%), training public sector workers (52%) and providing practical support at times of national crisis (52%) all identified as major priorities.

According to the poll, universities should also prioritise the supply of professionally qualified graduates – for example nurses, social workers and doctors – above all other subjects. Some 62 per cent said it was “very important” that universities teach applied subjects (for example nursing, medicine or engineering) as the country tries to rebuild after the Covid19 crisis.

This contrasts with 50 per cent for STEM subjects (science, maths), 24 per cent for social sciences, 13 per cent for languages and 12 per cent for the arts.

When asked how frontline NHS workers should be trained, 61 per cent said they believed nurses and other medical professionals such as midwives, should be educated at university, and that more funding should be made available to ramp up the number of places.

The survey also asked about the support universities have been giving to the NHS,  and the public see a clear link between the work of universities and the increased services that the NHS has delivered during the crisis.

Voters identified contributing to research around a vaccine (71%), sharing laboratories and other facilities (56%) and accelerating training of nurses and other medical professionals (55%) as things that universities were doing as part of the national effort to combat Covid-19.

Professor Debra Humphris, Chair of University Alliance and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Brighton and a former  nurse, said:

“It is gratifying that the role of universities in both the battle with COVID-19 and the national effort to rebuild in its aftermath is being recognised by the public.

“Alliance universities work closely with the NHS and social care sectors on a day to day basis, and guarantee the supply of nurses, midwives, doctors and other health and social care professionals. These links have never been stronger or more important than during the Coronavirus crisis.”

“Our universities sit on the very nexus of Higher Education, industry and the public sector. They will be essential to the national economic, social and cultural recovery effort in the months and years ahead.”

Headline findings: 

–       62% say universities should prioritise medicine, nursing and engineering over all other subjects, including 50 per cent for STEM subjects (science, maths), 24 per cent for social sciences, 13 per cent for languages and 12 per cent for the arts.

–       61% believe nurses should be trained at university and that more funding should be made available to increase places

–       71% believe universities will be very or quite important in the UKs recovery (only 19 per cent disagreeing)

–       56% believe universities have been very or quite important in supporting the NHS (just 8% disagree)


For more information about this survey and how it will inform UA’s strategic response to the recovery, please see here 


About the survey:


Further reading