So what do you think of the role of universities in everyday lives?
According to research from Universities UK – the sector’s representative body – whilst 48 per cent of adults in the UK have positive attitudes towards universities, only 11 per cent of these are likely to advocate for the sector because they have little idea of the benefits of universities beyond the undergraduate teaching that they or their children may have gone through.
That is why a new campaign “Made at Uni” has recently been launched to shift perception of British universities, especially to that proportion of the UK population who are not fully aware of the impact of higher education.
It aims to show how universities can transform lives and communities and that they are at the forefront of some of the UK’s most significant and life-changing innovations.
Most importantly of all, it aims to remind people of the huge impact that universities can have on people, lives and communities and show that everyone benefits from them, whether they’ve been there or not.
And in Wales, there are numerous illustrations of the wide-ranging impact of the higher education sector.
For example, within the Cardiff Capital Region, one of the most exciting developments that will make a real difference to the regional economy is the recent establishment of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme.
Involving all three local universities – the University of South Wales, Cardiff University, and Cardiff Metropolitan University – as well as the Welsh Government, Cardiff Council, all major Welsh broadcasters and more than 60 screen industry businesses, this multi-million pound project will develop research that will help support and transform the fast growing creative industries sector within the capital city and its environs.
At the South Wales Business School, one of the best examples of “Made at Uni’ in action is the recent work undertaken by a group of undergraduate students to help a Caerphilly company expand into new markets in Africa.
Six students, who are studying for a degree in marketing at USW, pitched their ideas to Catnic, a company that specialises in producing steel construction products for the residential sector.
As part of their international strategic marketing module and working with the school’s innovative Business Clinic, the students were asked to help Catnic’s research into the opportunities available in the north of Africa by developing case studies on the possibilities for international expansion.
They were asked to help Catnic get a better understanding of the economic situation, the dynamics of the markets, cultural influences, and how the company could supply its products in the region.
As a result, the students were able to get hands-on experience of working in a commercial environment and prepare for future employment through the development of investigative skills, consultancy skills and problem solving skills.
More importantly, there were also considerable benefits for the company from this interaction with the Business School, not least in being able to get a fresh perspective and new insights on the development of an important market opportunity.
Therefore, these two examples, along with many others from across the Welsh higher education sector, demonstrate that universities are no longer ivory towers that have little to do with the real world. Indeed, through research, collaborative projects with local organisations and volunteering by staff and students, they are now important economic and community catalysts that are making a real difference across the nation in different ways.