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Brexit: Royal Holloway's big debate

Wednesday 04-05-2016 - 15:17

Brianna Middleton MacPherson, Co-President Societies and Media at Royal Holloway Students' Union, tells us how her union is facilitating debate ahead of the EU referendum.

At Royal Holloway we are proud of how diverse our student community is, with a population of around 9,000 students from over 120 different countries around the world. Naturally a lot of our students showed an interest in the upcoming EU Referendum, and we wanted to run a campaign, which helped all students get involved in the debate whether they could vote or not.

Considering the day of the vote is outside of term time, the timing isn’t ideal to maximise student engagement but we believe the build-up is almost as important as the vote itself. We recognised that due to changes over the past few years registration has always been an issue for students engaging with local and national politics, so the referendum gives us a real chance to change that.

We wanted to give a big focus to this campaign and considering third term at Royal Holloway always tends to be the quietest, with students busy revising, we saw the opportunity to really send a message out about registration and the big debate: are you In or Out?  These days everything has to be ‘digital first’ so we kept that in mind when building our ideas about the referendum. We also recognised that there were a lot of different opinions nationally and locally when it came to the big question of EU membership. We needed a way of collating lots of information, which students could use to inform their decisions.

This lead to the goal of running some debates and an online campaign, which could inform all students about who could vote, how to register to vote, where to vote and how to decide. Our main drive has been through the EU Referendum mini-site, Facebook events, all student emails and social media posts.

It was really important our students and students groups lead the debate and got involved with the campaign. We have both Vote Leave and Stronger In campaigns on campus, and we wanted them to have the stage to speak to our students. The idea was to hold a big event to help students decide which side of the fence they fall on, and give our students the chance to debate the issues that really affect them.

So over the next few weeks we are running registration drives on campus at various events leading up to our, EU Referendum: The Big Debate event on 24 May. We’ll also be engaging with students through exciting events like our Eurovision Party on 14 May, where student groups can represent their country and speak to us about the upcoming referendum.

Hopefully this will give a chance for students to get registered and choose their side before the polling day on 23 June. As this is out of term time, we will be concentrating all our online messages on that day to remind students to get out and vote, hopefully inspiring them to have their say on the important decision facing Britain and the EU.

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