Engineering at the University of Brighton

Dr Steven Begg working on the rig within the Advanced Engineering Building

The South East believes universities should focus on training of nurses, doctors, and other professionals as part of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

A major new study has found that the public – both nationally and in the south east – think universities will help the UK bounce back after the pandemic.

86% of those that responded in the South East say it is important that universities should prioritise nursing, medicine, and engineering over all other subjects – a strong part of the University of Brighton’s provision alongside teachers, midwives and other health professions. The figure is only slightly higher than the national feeling on the same topic.

72% of South East respondents believed universities will play a key role in the UK’s recovery from coronavirus, with 59%, higher than the national average, agreeing that universities have played an important role in supporting the NHS during the pandemic.

As part of its civic response since the start of the emergency, the University of Brighton has donated personal protective equipment, manufactured hand sanitizer, carried out tests to evaluate the efficiency of PPE needed by frontline NHS staff and designed and produced face shields, while student nurses and doctors have supported the workforce in graduating early and social care students have remained on placement to assist the frontline effort. A number of University of Brighton staff have also been seconded to the NHS to support the COVID-19 response.

The survey was carried out by Public First on behalf of University Alliance, the Higher Education mission group representing professional and technical universities, of which the University of Brighton is a member .

This national survey identified contributing to research around a vaccine (71%), sharing laboratories and other facilities (56%) and accelerating the training of nurses and other medical professionals (55%) as key contributions that universities are making as part of the national effort to combat Covid-19.

The survey showed that the general public also believed that Universities have a major role in supporting the UK’s recovery by improving scientific research for innovation and development (74%), training public sector workers (52%) and providing practical support at times of national crisis (52%).

Professor Debra Humphris, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Brighton, Chair of University Alliance 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”.

“The University of Brighton works closely with the NHS and social care sectors on a day to day basis, and guarantees the supply of nurses, midwives, doctors and other health and social care professionals across the region. 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 important cultural recovery effort in the months and years ahead, in which the creative industries and social sciences will also play a role ”

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 at

University Alliance is the voice of professional and technical universities representing large to mid-sized universities working at the heart of their communities. Alliance Universities work with industry and the professions to deliver the workforce of today and tomorrow through practical, skills-based learning and applied research.

Stephanie Thomson • June 10, 2020

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