OpinionWay-CPU survey of elected officials and business leaders: a good opinion of universities and high expectations for their academic programs
94% of elected officials and 85% of business leaders have a good opinion of public universities, according to an OpinionWay survey for the Conference des Présidents d’Université (CPU) on the relationship between elected officials and business leaders.
For CPU President Manuel Tunon de Lara, “while these results are a great source of satisfaction, they show that elected officials and business leaders have high expectations of universities and scientific research, particularly in terms of achieving the objectives of sustainable development, improving the attractiveness of local communities, and assuring that youth acquire the skills they need for the working world of tomorrow. We must therefore strive to do more, and to do better, because these high expectations oblige us to. They show us our room for progress, invite us to work even harder, to accelerate our transformations and to make our successes and strengths better known.
The survey indicates that this largely positive opinion of universities, is based on the decisive role that interviewees attribute to universities in preparing the country’s future in terms of employment and scientific and technological capacity.
Elected officials and business leaders recognize the many and varied contributions that universities make to society, particularly when it comes to developing local economies and social cohesion. The importance of research was particularly cited. For this reason, respondents consider that universities should be a prioritý of the next presidential term.
University education is praised for its diversity, both in terms of content and recruitment. Business leaders point to the originality of student profiles, their social diversity and the variety of perspectives they offer.
High expectations for training
However, despite considerable efforts to improve the professional relevance of academic programs and to improve student employability, elected officials and business leaders believe that universities still do not adequately prepare their students for the realities of professional life. To remedy this, a large majority of decision-makers recommend more effort to improve professional relevance of university curricula and training programs.
Before the COVID pandemic, all indicators showed remarkable results in terms of graduate integration and graduate remuneration, both of which were on the rise. The CPU notes that there have been considerable institutional transformations. Nonetheless, the impact in terms of student training and student employability is still insufficiently perceived and recognized. Many elected officials and company directors feel ill-informed on the subject: there is still an effort to be made on the part of the institutions to highlight their successes in preparing students professionally.
The CPU will bring proposals to the table in its dialogue with the government and with unions, in hopes of nourishing a dynamic of co-construction that it considers indispensable, but also in an effort to anticipate the professional skills that students will need in tomorrow’s economy, at all levels of training, ranging from the Licence to the Doctorat.
The main results of the survey
The main data point is that a large majority of decision-makers have a good opinion of universities: they have an even better image of universities than the general public (86% vs. 69%), while half of the decision-makers surveyed state that they were educated at university (a third of the French population stated the same in May 2021).
This favorable opinion is expressed despite, according to them, imperfect information about the university. Only half́ declare that they are well informed about university course offerings, about university research or about university resources (53%), and only 12% of decision-makers say they are very well informed.
Like the French population as a whole, decision-makers attach great importance to universities and point to underfunding as a problem: 93% of them consider that the training of young people should be a prioritý of the next presidential term (87% among the French population as a whole) and 83% consider that university research should also be a priority (82% for the French population as a whole).
The perceived importance of universities should be analyzed in light of the responsibilities assigned to it in various fields:
- 81% of decision-makers state that scientific research creates the qualified jobs and the professions of tomorrow;
- 79% state that the universities must play a major role in energy transition, 77% that it plays an important role in France’s international influence;
- and 73% state that the university is the leading actor for scientific research in the country.
In view of these expectations, 72% of the decision-makers questioned, consider that the means allocated to universities for their operations are insufficient. Despite this lack of resources, a majority of the decision-makers consider that universities manage both to maintain high standards (62%) and to offer adapted course offerings throughout life (59%).
The decision-makers emphasize the role of universities in assuring the proper functioning of society and in developing the attractiveness of local communities:
- 46% of companies declare that universities have a primordial impact on the attractiveness of companies and 44% cite the impact of universities on the skillsets that companies have at their disposal.
- As a sign of the importance of universities to their local communities, 4 out of 10 decision-makers also point to their primordial role in developing social cohesion (42%), the local economy (40%) and local city life (38%).
Universities can improve by addressing the perceived gap between academic training and the realities of professional life. Respondents believe that universities do not prepare their students enough for the reality of professional life. Business leaders feel that graduates are not adequately prepared, not autonomous enough and not ready to face unknown environments, especially internationally. To remedy these problems, a large majoritý of decision-makers suggest greater attention to professional preparation in university curricula.
The methodology adopted by OpinionWay to carry out the CPU survey of Decision-makers on their relationship with universities.
This study was conducted with a sample of 500 decision-makers, including 80 elected officials from municipalities with at least 20,000 inhabitants and 420 company managers with at least 10 employees. The interviews were conducted by telephone using the CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interview) system.
The CPU extends its thanks to the Banque des Territoires, part of the Caisse des Dépôts, for its support in carrying out this survey.