Wednesday 02-03-2016 - 16:50
Back in April NUS National Conference passed policy to campaign to remain in Europe. I am proud that collectively we made this decision because the EU is about collaboration and cooperation, values right at the heart of our movement.
Student groups up and down the UK are already mobilising for an In vote. Recently I attended the launch of Students for Europe and it was inspiring to see students and SU officers who’d travelled far and wide come and learn skills to take back to their campuses. Seven out of ten students said they would vote In at the referendum, but that’s not an excuse to be complacent in the hope that they will go to the ballot box.
Students’ unions play a vital role in making sure the EU debate is alive, vibrant and engaging, and that students on your campuses are voting with their hearts and their heads. This vote isn’t just about accepting the Europe we have now, but about empowering an entire generation to have ownership, and to shape the debate rather than sitting on the side-lines. I think this was an incredibly powerful lesson that we learnt from students and young people in how they engaged in both sides of the argument during the Scottish referendum. We have to be the optimists for our cause.
NUS and students’ unions want a Europe that defends freedom of movement, tackles climate change, fights poverty and gives sanctuary to refugees. So in this campaign I’m not only campaigning for an ‘IN’ vote – but I’m campaigning for a better Europe, a Europe that builds on our values.
Every single vote counts in this referendum. Every student's vote matters just as much as an MP, as a business leader, as a celebrity; and this vote will directly have an impact on our educational experience, which is why guidance from our lawyers, which we will be publishing shortly, tell us that yes, students’ unions can take a democratic position on whether they campaign with their students to be In or Out.
We want our colleges and universities to be diverse. We want to learn from academics and peers from across Europe and beyond, we want our research to be collaborative and our learning opportunities to be broad. We want to unite around common issues and break down barriers.
I know that in your unions you have the knowledge to run voter registration activities, and I know you know how important it is to make sure your students are registered. So over the coming weeks we’ll be providing digital resources, campaigns and activity plans and information supporting you to run EU referendum activities which both engage and empower your students to make an informed vote. Because whether your union is mandated to take a stand or you just want to get the vote out, every single last one of those votes makes a real difference to all our futures.