General Election Mean for Students

The people of Britain head to the polls today to pick a new government.  If you’re not up on your current events you may be asking yourself: “Wait a second…didn’t this just happen?” Indeed, while just two years have passed since the last election, a lot has changed in that time. (Did someone say “Brexit”?) As a result, Prime Minister Theresa May called for an early election, AKA “snap election,” which can be held if enough members of the country’s lawmakers — two-thirds to be exact — agree to it.  And while forecasts vary wildly regarding who will win and by how much, experts agree that the results will play a huge role in the UK’s transition out of the EU.

Caught in the crossfires of it all? The UK’s significant student population. Here’s a closer look at where higher education factors into today’s vote.

What Domestic Students Need to Know

There’s no arguing that the majority of Britain’s young people feel disenfranchised by the country’s increasingly Conservative sway. However, these same people are also uniquely positioned to make a difference in today’s election.Says Quartz, “Whether the Conservative government wins by a landslide, by a small majority, or it loses its majority in Parliament (a prospect that sent the pound tumbling) is dependent on youth turnout. In short, the future of the Britain will be decided by its most disillusioned voters.”

But being fed up with rising tuition fees, lack of government funding, loss of housing benefits, and deteriorating job markets is not a reason not to vote. Why? Because we’ve all seen how that story ends. Pollsters predict that if youth turnout is as low as it was in 2015’s election, then the Conservative party will win in a landslide — meaning more of the same moving forward. If, however, the UK’s two million-plus students do turn up and vote, they could make their dissenting voices heard toward greater cross-party balance.

So which parties believe what when it comes to higher education? One of the biggest differences between the parties pertains to higher education tuitions. While fee structures are expected to remain consistent under both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, the left-leaning Labour Party has pledged to completely abolish tuition fees and write off existing student debt — in accordance with its viewpoint that higher education should be free because it’s a public service for the “collective good.”

And while all parties acknowledge the importance of increasing science and education funding, the Conservative Party has designated the smallest increase in spending (2.4 percent by 2027) to this area when compared to the platforms of the Labour Party (3 percent by 2030) and the Liberal Democrats (doubl[ing] innovation and research funding across the economy” as a “long-term goal.”)