Distinction and Diversity in Higher Education

Students could be drawn out of democracy by boundary changes


The National Union of Students (NUS) has joined with university and college leaders and staff over the serious risk students could be under-represented by newly drawn parliamentary boundaries.

They are collectively calling on students to make sure they are registered before the deadline of 20 November 2015, to appear on the electoral register for December 1.

Parliamentary boundaries will be redrawn based on the number of people registered on this date. Where people are not registered to vote, they will be under-represented in parliament – it’s vital that we act now to ensure that students’ voices are heard in 2016.

In addition, as result of recent electoral registration changes many students who may think they are registered to vote may not be next year unless they re-register individually now.

Megan Dunn, NUS national president, said:

“The student voice has been vital in national and local elections for decades, and the changes to voter registration and the boundary review process risks wiping this off the map. With so many important elections across the UK next year, we must make sure people know they have to re-register and when, or hundreds of thousands of students are at risk of being disenfranchised.”

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said:

“It is a real concern if young people and students do not register to vote and end up being under-represented in the electorate. We know that many people are not aware of the changes to the registration system. Together with NUS, we are urging university leaders and students’ unions to work together to encourage students to register so that they can play a full role in the democratic process in 2016.”

Martin Doel, CEO, Association of Colleges said:

“Young people have a significant electoral influence and with the government making crucial decisions that will affect their future it’s important they have a voice. We will be working with colleges to encourage students to register to vote to ensure their voice is heard.”

Gordon McKenzie, CEO, GuildHE said:

“Students make a huge contribution to local communities and wider society, and are a key part of our future successes. Ensuring that their voice is heard in the democratic process is essential and so it is important to ensure that students are encouraged to register to vote.”

Sally Hunt, general secretary of University and College Union said:

“No matter how disillusioned you are with politics and politicians, if you don’t register to vote you only increase the likelihood of being ignored. As electoral boundaries change, it’s crucial that college and university staff and students register to vote so that new constituencies properly reflect those who live there.”

Notes for editors:

1. For more information please contact the NUS press office on 07866 695010 or pressoffice@nus.org.uk.

2. The elections next year include those for the Northern Ireland Assembly, National Assembly for Wales, Scottish Parliament, London Assembly, Mayor of London, English local government, Mayoral elections, Police and Crime Commissioner (England and Wales), and potentially the EU Referendum.

3. An Electoral Commission analysis of the registers used for the May 2015 elections found that there were still 1.9 million entries being retained under the transitional arrangements in place for the move to IER from the previous household system. The government’s order to accelerate the end of the transition will see any of the retained entries still on the register by 1 December 2015 deleted. A disproportionately high number of these entries are likely to be students.

4. In the run up to the May 2015 general election thousands of students took part in NUS’ #GenerationVote voter registration campaign, with students’ unions across the UK undertaking mass voter registration drives. NUS will be issuing a comprehensive guide to voter registration to students’ unions in the next few weeks.