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Survey reveals 70 per cent of students back staying in the EU

A recent national survey of 1,005 participants revealed that given the chance to take part in a referendum, 70 per cent of full-time university students would vote in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union—with female students less likely to back leaving than male students. After the survey was carried out, Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), one of the conductors of the survey, released a report in which it expressed doubt that university students truly represent a credible or strong opposition to the out-campaign.

Nick Hillman writes in HEPI’s report that “students are not a lost cause for those campaigning for the UK to leave the EU. Around one-third of students have said that they have given the topic only ‘little thought’ (21 per cent) or ‘no thought at all’ (13 per cent), and a similar proportion have said that they hold their views ‘not very strongly’ (27 per cent) or ‘not strongly at all’ (6 per cent).”

HEPI points to the large number of students who are either undecided or have expressed disappointment with the UK government’s progress in negotiating EU reform, stating that “an unsuccessful renegotiation could see 12 per cent of the 70 per cent of students who would vote for the UK to stay in an EU referendum held tomorrow change sides.”

In a statement to The Mancunion, third year history student Adam Merrill commented on government renegotiations, saying that: “As a matter of moral principle, unless there is significant structural changes made by the EU in a negotiation, I would have to vote out. I feel that it was a good idea at first that has not worked out as well as it should and could be.

“For me it is far too undemocratic, it doesn’t give fair trade deals, and undermines the British legal system. It would be better if we stayed and helped to change the EU inside structurally, but if that’s not possible, then it’ll be an out for me.”

An opinion poll conducted by The Mancunion revealed that an overwhelming majority of 83 per cent of University of Manchester students would vote in favour of staying in the UK, with 11 per cent backing the decision to leave and 6 per cent remaining undecided. On his decision to vote in favour of leaving the EU, University of Manchester student Alex Lovatt says: “Currently I’d vote to leave, as it stands the EU is in a position where it is dictating British laws and overriding British policy. It’s undemocratic and a clear overreach of the institution we’ve joined and our governments push for reform hasn’t had a positive reception.”

Lauren Rosegreen, third year law student, opposes this argument, saying: “From a law point of view our human rights and mental health laws in particular would be nowhere near as advanced and protected as they are now without us being in the EU and having to abide by EU legislation.”

Commenting on the relevance of the national survey, Jack Murray, chairman of Manchester Conservative Future, says that “if the 2015 General Election has taught us anything: Don’t always believe in opinion polls.”

He adds that the results of the survey are not necessarily surprising, stating that: “Students are ‘net gainers’ from Europe: Higher Education receives significant funding from the EU, Britain’s membership allows us to study abroad with ease and it also allows us to travel to the continent relatively unimpeded. There is also a significant bias within university staff, who see the European Project as the be-all and end-all with no other possible alternative. This is unhealthy.

“Students should be given the facts and allowed to make their own minds up. Yay or nay, the referendum is a hugely important decision and everyone must vote according to their own beliefs, without interference.”

Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, has recently agreed to assist Cameron in resolving UK-EU negotiations before Christmas, stating that: “If Cameron is sure December is better for him as the organiser of this referendum, I will be helpful and I am ready to convince our officials.” The renegotiations are approaching fast and, as the national student survey and HEPI’s report has revealed, decisions made by the UK government on EU reform will have a large impact on student votes.

Tags: eu referendum, Higher Education Policy Institute, Jack Murray, Nick Hillman, youth sight, youth student survey

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