Ontarians view universities as essential, just behind hospitals and schools: Poll

A new Gandalf Group survey of the Ontario population shows Ontarians rank universities’ contributions to society as essential, behind only hospitals and elementary and high schools.

Poll results released by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) show that Ontarians believe universities make important contributions to research, science, health care, culture and society, as well as in preparing students for the workforce. The belief is not confined to those who attended university, but is shared by much of the Ontario population.

The poll found the vast majority of Ontario university graduates credit their university education with career success and most Ontarians believe that universities’ ability to increase knowledge and skills is a valuable contribution.

“The poll results show the many ways universities benefit individuals and the province as a whole,” says Max Blouw, COU Chair and President of Wilfrid Laurier University. “The people of Ontario recognize that universities are as fundamental to their well-being as hospitals. Our graduates are telling us their career success is a result of the education they received at university and we know that the economy depends on the contributions of these bright young minds.”

Among the poll’s findings:

· 88 per cent of adult Ontarians ranked universities’ overall contributions to the province as important, just behind hospitals (92 per cent) and elementary and high schools (90 per cent)

· 83 per cent of those who have attended universities feel their education played a role in their career success; almost half said their university education contributed a great deal

· 72 per cent of adult Ontarians say that teaching at universities to increase knowledge and skills is a very important contribution to society

· 79 per cent believe universities make a very important contribution through research to understanding science and health care

· 87 per cent believe Ontario university students benefit greatly from university programs

· 94 per cent of respondents said their children were likely to apply to or attend university, 71 per cent said very likely

· When it comes to what Ontarians expect universities to provide to students, the vast majority said it was important for them to attain not just valuable skills (97 per cent) and access to better jobs (95 per cent) but also the chance to grow personally (94 per cent), gain valuable decision-making skills (94 per cent) and greater independence (91 per cent).

The poll, conducted for COU between July 15 and 25, 2013 by the Gandalf Group, surveyed 1,000 Ontario residents aged 18 and older representative of gender and age – including university graduates and others. The survey of randomly recruited participants online supports probability sampling accurate to plus or minus 3.1 per cent 19 times out of 20.

“Ontario universities are pleased at the recognition among graduates and Ontarians in general that they play an invaluable role in society,” says Bonnie M. Patterson, COU President and CEO.

“The success of our young people is crucial to the success of Ontario economically, culturally and socially. A university education is still the surest path to success.”

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