General election: Free doughnuts, drinks and goat petting among incentives to get students to vote

Integrating electoral registration into university enrolment can improve turnout, report suggests

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Thursday 07 November 2019 07:50
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Universities have given out free doughnuts, drinks and a chance to pet a goat in a bid to get students to vote.

Institutions across the UK have been ranked on their voter registration efforts among students as part of new research from campaign group Vote For Your Future and Times Higher Education.

The universities of Hull, Sheffield and Worcester have topped the rankings - which have been released as the general election campaign gets underway.

Initiatives at these institutions included combining online voter registration with a compulsory module during enrolment and creating a dedicated general election website for students.

At Bath University, which was placed in the top five, the students’ union ran a "donut forget to vote" campaign offering free doughnuts to any student registering on the spot.

Researchers also highlighted other creative schemes taken by institutions to improve registration and turnout rates.

Students’ unions at the University of Bristol and Plymouth Marjon University offer a free drink on polling day for anyone presenting their polling card.

Meanwhile, the students’ union at University College London (UCL) ran a "goats for votes" initiative - which offered students signing up to vote the chance to pet one of the animals.

Universities were ranked according to their voter registration efforts in five key areas: digital integration, communication, turnout, monitoring and engagement.

Nearly two in five (39 per cent) of the ranked universities have integrated electoral registration into student enrolment – which researchers say is the most effective step a university can take.

But one in eight (13 per cent) of institutions were identified as having “subpar” practices.

Lara Spirit, director of Vote For Your Future, said: "These rankings shine a light on the fantastic work many universities are doing to make sure their students are registered to vote, but they also expose real failings at many institutions.

"There is still time to rise to the challenge and address these fundamental problems before the registration deadline on 26 November."

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The report comes after a considerable spike in under-25s applying for voter registration was recorded last week during the first day of the general election campaign.

Zamzam Ibrahim, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), told The Independent: “Every institution should be doing all they can to get students registered to vote, and while we are seeing innovative approaches from some many are simply failing their students.

“NUS has been campaigning for the widespread adoption of automatic voter registration systems since individual electoral registration was introduced.

“These systems make it easy for students to be registered at the same time as enrolling at their institution, removing the need for resource intensive voter registration campaigns.”

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