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Education News

Third of students 'can't name Labour leader'

A third of students do not know that Gordon Brown is the leader of the Labour Party, a survey found today.

A similar proportion failed to identify David Cameron as Tory leader.

The worrying gap in students' knowledge is revealed in a poll by student accommodation provider Unite.

The survey of more than 1,500 students reveals that 33% could not name Mr Brown as Labour leader, while 34% did not know Mr Cameron leads the Conservatives.

Less than half (48%) knew that Nick Clegg is the Liberal Democrat leader.

A quarter of students (26%) believe actress and campaigner Joanna Lumley would do a better job running the country than the current candidates, followed by tycoon Sir Alan Sugar (22%).

The poll also reveals the disillusionment among students about politics and their desire for politicians to take a clear stand on issues relevant to their lives, such as tuition fees.

Nearly two thirds (61%) think the state of higher education is the same, or worse, now as it was before more than 12 years of Labour Government.

Four in 10 (41%) believe that becoming personally involved in politics, by protesting, or joining a party, is more likely to achieve change than by voting.

Almost half of students are unlikely to vote in the upcoming general election, the survey found.

But almost three in 10 said they would vote if all the main political parties pledged to drop tuition fees.

An independent review of the student funding system, which could pave the way for higher fees, is under way, but will not report back until after the election.

Despite repeated calls, both Labour and the Tories have refused to pre-empt the outcome of the review.

The findings show that 47% of students - which Unite says is equivalent to more than a million students - will not be voting, or are highly unlikely to.

A quarter (24%) are unable to identify differences between the main political parties.

Nearly one in five (19%) say they will not vote because their friends and family are not planning to, while around one in eight (12%) admit they have no interest in politics.

Almost three in 10 (29%) would be more likely to vote of all the parties pledged to drop tuition fees, and nearly two in five (38%) want clearer information on what each party stands for.

The law that students would most like to see introduced is legislation refunding the costs of a degree to those who achieve a first.

One in eight (12%) think a tax on bankers' bonuses should be introduced to contribute towards tuition fees while one in 10 believe MPs expenses should be cut to create extra funding.

Some 8% were in favour of scrapping tuition fees in favour of a "graduate tax".

Shane Spiers, managing director of Unite, said: "We are home to almost 40,000 students and believe it's important for our residents to feel they can influence issues that matter most to them.

"Through partnering with the Electoral Commission, we can equip our residents with the information they need to debate the options and make their vote count."

:: The survey questioned 1,566 university students aged 18 and over between January 21 and 27.