Universities will play important role in UK recovery from Covid-19, say public

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Public believe universities will be important to pandemic recovery

More than 7 in 10 people believe universities will play an important role in supporting the UK’s economic and social recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a major new poll.

A weighted survey of over 1,000 people identified improving scientific research for innovation and development (74%), training public sector workers (52%) and providing practical support at times of national crisis (52%) as major priorities.

The poll, carried out by Public First on behalf of University Alliance, found a clear link amongst respondents between the work of universities and the increased services that the NHS has delivered during the crisis too. 

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

This study demonstrates that the public recognises the important support that higher education is providing during the global pandemic, and the key role that universities such as Oxford Brookes will play in economic and social recovery over the months and years ahead.

Professor Alistair Fitt, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University

The major poll of public attitudes also demonstrated the strong support for the vital training and educating of professionally qualified graduates – for example nurses and social workers, for which courses are already delivered by Oxford Brookes. Some 62 per cent said it was “very important” that universities teach applied subjects as the country rebuilds after the Covid19 crisis.

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.

Professor Alistair Fitt, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, commented: “I am immensely proud of Oxford Brookes’ students, staff and graduates who have already played a vital role in the response to the global pandemic. This includes those who are bravely working in front-line NHS roles, colleagues conducting testing and cutting edge research to understand how children's development has been impacted by the lockdown and those involved in developing a vaccine.

"This study demonstrates that the public recognises the important support that higher education is providing during the global pandemic, and the key role that universities such as Oxford Brookes will play in economic and social recovery over the months and years ahead.”

Professor Debra Humphris, Chair of University Alliance, 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.”

More than 130 final-year nursing students from Oxford Brookes are working on the front-line at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and in healthcare settings across Oxfordshire. A further 66 nursing students are at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital. 

Alongside them, 30 student midwives and more than 80 health care students from Oxford Brookes, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists and paramedics, have stepped forward. Final-year paramedic students are working as front-line workers with South Central Ambulance Service, while first and second-year students have stepped up as emergency care assistants and call takers.

In addition to direct support for front-line roles and research, further support for Covid-19 from Oxford Brookes has included staff printing 3D face visors to protect health workers, work with Oxford City Council to ensure emergency food supplies also provide a healthy diet, and chair-based exercise routines created to help people stay active and healthy during lockdown.

 

Public First surveyed 1,003 UK adults. Fieldwork was conducted from May 13 - May 15 2020 and results have been weighted by age, gender, social grade and region. Public First is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full results are  available online.