Principals on board with voting principle

Principals on board with voting principle

College principals have been enlisted in the effort to register learners to vote in May’s general election.

The Electoral Commission, which oversees elections in the UK, has joined forces with the National Union of Students (NUS) and the Association of Colleges (AoC) as well as higher education bodies in the campaign.

Nick Boles with City Lit principal Mark Malcolmson

Nick Boles with City Lit principal Mark Malcolmson

They have written to college principals and university chancellors asking them to raise awareness among students via emails, poster campaigns and campus registration drives.

Martin Doel, AoC chief executive, said: “The next government will be making crucial decisions that will affect everyone’s future — as well as the next generation in education.

“It’s important everyone has their say at this summer’s election which is why we’d like to see colleges and other institutions to encourage their students to register to vote.”

A similar effort to get learners voting took place at Croydon College last month with a visit and talk by Lady Doreen Lawrence OBE — the mother of Stephen Lawrence, the teenager murdered in a racist attack in east London in 1993.

Liam Byrne at Newham Sixth Form College

Liam Byrne at Newham Sixth Form College

She spoke to students from across all subject areas after taking a tour of the grounds. Business student Kediashia Kay, aged 17, said: “She was inspirational. The session was a real eye-opener — to understand how important one vote can be, and that one person can make such a huge difference.” Principal Frances Wadsworth said: “The session was about being able to show students that one person can make a difference, and whether they vote Conservative, Labour or whatever — they will have taken part in an important democratic process that will, whatever the outcome, affect their lives.”

From left: Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Taunton Deane Rachel Gilmour, Nick Clegg and Somerset College principal Rachel Davies

From left: Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Taunton Deane Rachel Gilmour, Nick Clegg and Somerset College principal Rachel Davies

And recently colleges have been getting visits from politicians, including Shadow Skills Minister Liam Byrne at London’s Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) and Seevic College in Essex, while Skills Minister Nick Boles has been to London’s City Lit and Somerset College has played host to Lib Dem leader Nick Boles.

Toni Pearce, NUS president, said: “At a time when many feel that politics isn’t relevant to them, we need to do everything we can to encourage young people to take part in democracy. Students hold the key to the next general election, registering to vote is a step closer to making sure they use it.”

Toni Pearce

Toni Pearce

Commission chair Jenny Watson said academic institutions were “in a unique position to directly contact” students. “We hope that as many academic institutions as possible will support our efforts to get students registered,” she said.