'Young voters are an engaging prospect'

9th March 2018 at 00:00
Increasing the number of votes among those with a stake in FE can only benefit the sector

The level of engagement among young people in the run-up to the Scottish referendum four years ago is one of those lasting impressions of that strange time. Few of us had seen anything like it – before or since.

Many younger than the 16-year-olds who had been given the right to vote were wearing badges, talking politics and seeking information.

Research has shown that around 90 per cent of 16- and 17-year-olds in Scotland registered to vote in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence – and 75 per cent of them went on to vote, compared with just 54 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds. Crucially, 97 per cent of those 16- and 17-year-olds who voted said that they would vote again in future elections.

Getting a whole generation engaged with politics and involved in a decision-making process that is likely to affect them more than anyone is something that would, surely, appeal to most people, particularly those involved in education.

Giving college students a louder voice

The campaign to lower the voting age to 16 and increase the number of votes among those with a stake in FE can only benefit the sector. There is also the altruistic motive of trying to support more than half a million college students who would gain an opportunity to make their voices heard. Feeling like they have a stake in society should have a positive impact on educational engagement, too.

There ought to be a place for a little bit of political idealism in education.

Of course, there is, with this campaign and others, the risk that those in power will see their own interests being jeopardised. Those half-a-million extra voters may not back the current political leadership. They are unlikely, for example, to be in favour of Brexit.

As a result, such an idea might be smothered by political expediency. Despite this, it is worth making the case for such a positive change. It is better to know hope.


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