Warwick students have been named “Britain’s most powerful students”, according to a recent report by the Guardian.
The report suggests that, as a collective, students attending the University of Warwick will have the most impact at the ballot box to change both local and national politics.
Warwick’s students’ position as the most influential has resulted from both the prominent political activism amongst the student community, such as the #CopsOffCampus protests last term, and the geographical location of the University, which means students’ will vote across four constituencies.
The report, however, incorrectly reported that Warwick students would vote within the North Warwickshire constituency – a historically contested seat, gained by the Conservatives from Labour by only 54 votes in 2010, the slimmest majority in the country. It is not expected that any Warwick students will vote in this constituency, as it constitutes towns such as Bedworth, Nuneaton, and Atherstone, and not student resident hotspots such as Coventry, Leamington, and Kenilworth.
Students who live on campus will be able to vote in the Coventry South constituency, and some will vote in the Kenilworth constituency. Meanwhile, students who are a living off campus in Leamington, Kenilworth and Coventry will be able to cast their vote for the Warwick and Leamington, Kenilworth and Southam, and Coventry South or Coventry North West seats respectively.
In the 2010 election, the Coventry South seat, in which the University is situated, was maintained by the Labour Candidate, Jim Cunningham, by a majority of just 3,845 votes. With over 6,300 students living on campus, Warwick students have the power to impact the result in this constituency.
At the last general election, there were 73,596 eligible voters in the Coventry South constituency. Taking into consideration students living on campus, Warwick students could account for up to eight percent of the voting population, although the actual figure is likely to be fewer, as international students will not be eligible to vote.
Students reacted positively to the Guardian’s report, with Toby O’Brien, a Psychology undergraduate, commenting: “It is frustrating when people at university claim they don’t have a voice and that they’re not listened to. This proves otherwise, students need to accept the fact they have a voice and they’re just not always right.”
Cameron Mason, a member of Warwick for Free Education, agreed that students at Warwick had the potential to impact politics and highlighted the value of the report. He told the Boar: “I think it’s true, Warwick is very politically active and the reactions we have seen have been massive. It’s a really good thing, not just for left-wing politics, but for an open discussion on all sides.”
First-year English Literature student, Zoë Morrall, also noted that Warwick students made an impact in UK politics: “I’ve been really aware of the student activism on campus. It’s got into the national news. Our activism has an effect and we are heard. It’s clear what we do here has ramifications.”
Mr Mason encouraged students to take to the ballot box in May: “More students should vote. Students want to see change. If students vote, we will get more of the things we want.”
Mr Mason also drew attention to the fact that voters can spoil their ballots, “which makes it harder for a party to achieve a majority and registers your distaste for the system.”
Ms Morrall also plans to vote in May, she said: “I haven’t decided yet, but people who think that their vote doesn’t count are stupid. It takes a group of people to make a change. You’re part of a society, you have a responsibility to vote. I don’t understand people who don’t vote. I think it’s ridiculous. The only time we don’t have power is when we think we don’t have any.”
The University has also encouraged students to take up their opportunity to vote this week, as vice-chancellor Sir Nigel Thrift, sent out an email to all students urging them to register in time for the election.
Students who hold British citizenship are eligible to register their vote up until April 20.
To register to vote visit www.gov.uk/register-to-vote