A survey conducted by The Courier reveals that Newcastle University students are overwhelmingly in favour of Britain remaining within the European Union. 80.8% (235 of the 291) of the students asked stated they would vote ‘In’ at the time of answering. Only 10.7% said they would vote out, and 8.6% said they were unsure.
When asked what political parties students would vote for, the majority responded with the Labour Party (49.5%). The Green Party was the next most popular, with 18.6% of the vote, evidencing that the so-called ‘Green surge’ before the 2015 general election has since a genuine long-term increase in support for Green Party, despite only one Green MP being elected, the same as in 2010.
The numbers suggest that the Liberal-Democrat party are also slowly making a return. Whilst a poll conducted by The Courier in April 2015 showed that only 4.5% of students would vote for the Lib-Dems, this survey shows 8.29%(check) of students have adopted the Lib-Dem bearings. Whilst this number is still far below the level of support the Liberal-Democrats received from students before the 2010 Coalition Government, it seems that the faith of students is slowly being restored in the party following their U-turn on higher education tuition fees in 2010. This may be aided by the stepping down of Nick Clegg following the 2015 General Election results, and new leadership of Tim Farron, who was President of Newcastle University Students’ Union in 1990/91.
The common view of the EU referendum as a partisan issue seems affirmed by the statistics, which show that 23% of Conservative party supporters would vote Out, whilst only 1.4% of Labour supporters and 2% of Greens would vote Out. A significant trend for voting Out also appeared in the smaller parties. Whilst only two students stated they would vote for UKIP, both intend to vote Out, as do five of the six students who support the Scottish Nationalist Party.
The significant proportion of students who intend to vote in may be attributed to the fact that the Higher Education sector is frequently associated with the ‘In’ campaign, given the large amount of research funding that universities receive from the European Union. Indeed, during the second Student Council of the academic year, held on November 12th 2015, a motion was passed affirming the Students’ Union’s support of the In campaign. This motion, which passed with 80% of the vote, concerned ‘NUSU’s position on the EU referendum’ and resolved that NUSU’s stance should be to remain within the EU, whilst seeking to engage students in the EU referendum and informing students of the benefits through appropriate means.
Recently, the University has also reasserted their support of the European Union, with the Vice-Chancellor co-signing an open letter that was published in The Sunday Times. This letter highlighted the benefits of EU membership to British universities, particularly in terms of forging and maintaining international connections, as well as the large amount of research funding that the University receives from the EU.