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Most democratic uni?


John Chilvers reflects on the lack of voter registration by Exeter’s students for the upcoming national election.


Exeter has its problems: the queue in Costa, the steepness of its hills and the price of a burger and pint in the Ram going up by 50p. But one thing that no one talks about is Exeter’s problem with democracy. The number of students registered to vote is at an all-time low. You would think that as we approach a general election there would be an upsurge in voter registration, but sadly not.

“The number of students registered to vote is at an all-time low”

Students have historically been attacked left right and centre from all political parties. First tuition fees, brought in by Labour and then wacked up to £9,000 (bargain!) by our friend Clegg, then EMA was cut, and now there is the prospect of losing your benefits if you are under the age of 21. There is one simple reason they can do this: we don’t vote. No one can touch pensioners. If a party leader does, they can say goodbye to the keys to number 10 and their political career. But harming students only results in a few noisy protestors outside Parliament.

“Harming students only results in a few noisy protestors outside parliament”

Jobs and higher education are going to be major issues at the general election. We as students have to make our voice heard, it’s our future at stake after all. Many people argue that voting does not make a difference, in safe seats around the country that may be the case. Here in Exeter though nothing could be further from the truth. The current MP Ben Bradshaw has a majority of 2,700. We are a student body of 19,000 and we have the potential to determine this election. 42 per cent of us voted in the SABB elections. Not to belittle the work they do, but this election is 100 times more important.

A recent study showed that around 80 per cent of students plan to vote. That’s great, but unless there is a massive upsurge in registration most of those people will be left disappointed come 7 May, when they are turned away from the polling station.

“We have the potential to determine the election.”

What saddens me most though is the lack of effort and energy the University is putting in to do something about this. Politics Society did do a big push last term but it is only with the Uni’s support we can really get close to achieving the kind of numbers we ought to. Why not spend a little less time trying to sue your own student newspaper, and a little more time making sure students’ voices are heard?


John Chilvers

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