Getting Students to vote at the General Election

NUS_040814_JAlden-65In September we launched our general election manifesto New Deal for the Next Generation and #GenerationVote – a campaign for students and students’ unions to get people talking about the election and registered to vote.

Since then, we’ve seen students’ unions hire traditional London buses to ferry students around campus if they registered to vote, build giant ballot boxes and even hire three goats to live on campus for the day in a ‘Goats for Votes’ campaign.

We also run our own MP’s question time on Twitter each week, grilling the candidates in student constituencies about what their New Deal for the Next Generation will be with the aim to really open up politics for students.

Our general election hub can now show each student where their vote will be most influential. So, for example, if students are wondering whether they should register at home or at university, they can type in their postcode to the site to see where their vote will make the most difference.

This year has also seen the launch of the APPG for students. This is an important tool for facilitating cross-party discussion on issues affecting students’ lives. The principal motivation here was so that we could have a space for representatives from all parties to come and hear and discuss issues facing students.

In a recent survey, 75 per cent of students told us they will be voting at the election. This is more proof of the massive potential young people and students have at this election to have their voice heard and to be the catalyst for a new kind of politics.

But it doesn’t mean we haven’t faced barriers. With the move to individual electoral registration, masses of students have fallen off the register which means that we are fighting to inform and empower. It has given an opportunity to students to make the move to register to vote themselves and to feel like they are making a personal decision to engage in the process. And our work has already been recognised on a national scale, just last week the Cabinet Office announced a grant of £380,000 to NUS for voter registration activities.

Students can fix Britain, their talent and enterprise can build a more prosperous and fairer society but they need help.  They need a commitment to reduce the day-to-day cost of living in order to survive education without a legacy of debt.

It is so important for parties to get on campuses, speak and listen to students.

Students’ could be the determining factor in over a quarter of seats up and down the country. That’s a fact. That’s the gauntlet. We’re telling you this so you can tell them, and tell everyone.

We’re looking for a vision from politicians. We’re looking for something that speaks to us, that speaks to those coming after us. All parties need to prioritise a vision for the future that students can believe in.

Toni Pearce,
President of the NUS

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