More than a third of people say too many students go to university, only slightly less than the number that thinks it’s either too low or about right.
Of the more than 2,600 British adults that responded to the YouGov poll, 35% believe the numbers are too high; 27% say it is about right; 28% do not know, and just 10% say it is too low.
Yesterday, Ucas confirmed that a record number of UK-domiciled people gained places on full-time undergraduate courses at UK universities on results day, ahead of what could be a bumper year for recruitment.
While 44% of those aged 18–24 felt the numbers are about right, 49% of those aged 65 or above feel it is too high.
Among Conservatives, those believing the intake is too high was 49%, compared to 29% of Labour supporters.
The poll is the latest sign of national debate about the future role and size of universities.
Are more universities needed to level up Britain?
In June 2021, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change called for an additional 46 universities to be built to level up deprived, middle-sized towns outside of economically vibrant conurbations.
The report recommended that the new universities “should have a particular focus on applied as well as technical skills and core competencies for the 21st century”.
A Public First poll commissioned ahead of the 2019 general election found that just 17% of the public think government should spend more on higher education – the lowest scoring of possible spending priorities put to the sample.
This June, the government pledged a multi-million fund for degree alternatives, via its ‘Growth Fund’ to support institutions to buy equipment and “develop the business links they need” to offer skills-based training.
Gavin Williamson, education secretary, said at the time: “Over two years since its publication, the government is expected to respond to the post-18 review of education and funding (the Augar Review) alongside the comprehensive spending review later this year.
“Investment in higher technical skills will support more people to secure exciting and rewarding careers, fill skills gaps in our economy and help us build back better from the pandemic.
“We also want to counter the myth that a degree is the only way to a good job. This funding will help open up more high-quality training alternatives for people, empowering them to get the skills they need to build the life they want, wherever they live.”