What do MPs think about universities?

A new survey has been carried out by ComRes, asking current and possible future MPs about their views on higher education.

Politicians were asked what they wanted to hear about from universities, and also how the rated the performance of universities.

From the ComRes website:

MPs are most likely to say that they would be most interested in hearing from UK universities about their engagement with business and enterprise (43%) followed by the employability of graduates (42%).

Future MPs are most likely to say that they would be most interested in hearing from UK universities about their activities relating to widening participation and improving social mobility, and about the employability of graduates (48% for both).

Of the statements tested, MPs and Future MPs are most likely to say that they are interested in the external work of UK universities, rather than teaching and learning. Just 14% of MPs and 16% of Future MPs say that they would be interested in hearing about the teaching and learning at universities.

When asked about how well universities perform, then while 78% though universities did well at world leading research and 71% though they did well at competing internationally with other HE sectors, only 56% thought universities did well at producing highly skilled and employable graduates and 48% thought they did well at contributing to local employment and the local economy in their areas. More worryingly only 38% thought universities did well at using their funding efficiently (funding from their assets, students, the government and others).

There were also large variations in opinion depending on the political party, so for instance when considering how well universities are perceived on issues that my university might be concerned with, then the results are:

producing highly employable graduates Using their funding efficiently Widening participation
Conservative 46%


33% 47%
Labour 62%


48% 29%

(Other minority parties not shown in results)








So why does this matter?

With an election now 3 months away, then universities need to recognise that with only 24% of MPs thinking that universities perform well on engaging with MPs and other stakeholders, that there is work to be done on making it clear what our contribution is to local and national economies and to show how we create highly employable graduates.

Also, we need to be aware that the two main parties have different preconceptions about what it is that we do well, or otherwise, meaning we might need to tailor our messaging. We might also need to find out what the other, currently minority, parties think.

One thought on “What do MPs think about universities?

  1. Very Interesting but maybe not surprising results. These views are indicative of political ideology. The pro free market Tories thinking that funds are not used efficiently. The pro social mobility Socialistists thinking WP is not done well.

    Importantly all political parties emphasising the importance of links between business, enterprise and Universities. We have all been talking about this for a good couple of decades. See Richard Zlambets report in 2003.


    This joined up business / University linking is still at best patchy in many modern Universities, even those which brand themselves as business facing Universities. See University of Hertfordshire who bought the local business link See University of Derby Corporate which has been now embedded in the Business School, See University of Northampton Social Enterprise agenda which struggles to make a difference (and these are just the places I’ve worked and been involved in!!)

    This is a shame as Universities have a lot to offer but infrastructures do no facilitate it and, more importantly make it sustainable. To really make a difference to the graduate employability agenda, student employability and business growth in the local and regional community this is the key thing to get in place before anything else.

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