The UK General Election - What Students Need to Know |
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Posted on 28 Jun '24

The UK General Election – What Students Need to Know

People will be heading to polling stations across the UK on Thursday 4 July to vote in the 2024 general election. It’s an important day for a number of reasons, but the results of the election could have significant implications for UK universities and the education sector as a whole. If you’re thinking of doing a Masters or PhD, it’s important to understand how the election could affect your future plans.

In this blog, we’ll look at who can vote (some international students are able to!) in the 2024 UK election and what each political party’s manifesto says about education.

Who can vote in the UK general election?

If you’re a British citizen and are aged 18 years or older then you’ll be able to vote on polling day. For international students, you must meet the following criteria:

1. Be at least 18 years old

2. Be one of the following:

  • A British citizen
  • A citizen of the Republic of Ireland
  • A qualifying Commonwealth citizen

3. Have a UK address

Hopefully you’ve already registered to vote and had your polling card through! If you haven’t, then you can register on the government website to be on the electoral register for future elections.

What do you need on the day?

Set an alarm or reminder on your phone and find out beforehand where your nearest polling station is (this should be on the polling card you received in the post). They should be open from 7am, and you have until 10pm on the day to get your vote in. Go before work, pop out at lunch, treat yourself to a post-studies walk, vote with a friend then get coffee, whatever works for you!

You don’t need to take your polling card with you but, for the 2024 election, you will need your ID! Only certain forms of ID are accepted, such as a passport or driving license so check you’ve got the right one! If you’re an international student then the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has some useful voting advice on their website.

What are each party’s plans for education?

Each political party has released their manifesto detailing their plans should they win the election. While there are plenty of talking points, we’ve pulled out specifically what their plans are for universities, education and immigration.

Conservative Party

  • Introduce a lifelong learning entitlement (LLE) for adult retraining and upskilling on undergraduate study only
  • Will look to close university courses that have “excessive drop-out rates or leave students worse off” than had they not gone to university
  • Plan on implementing health checks before travel and increase the Immigration Health Surcharge to £1,035
  • Plan to increase visa fees and remove the student discount for the Immigration Health Surcharge

Take a look at the Converative Party's manifesto yourself.

Labour Party

  • Aims to support universities and foster partnerships with industry
  • Will work with universities to ‘‘support spinouts’’
  • Plans to implement 10-year budgets for key research and development institutions
  • Promises to support all who meet the entry requirements and want to attend university
  • Plan to ‘’break down barriers to opportunity’’ and improve access to universities

Unfortunately, there are no mentions of any changes to international student visas or immigration in the Labour Party manifesto.

Liberal Democrats

  • Increase support for science, research and innovation in universities
  • Want to participate in the European Union’s Horizon Europe and the European Innovation Council
  • Reinstate maintenance grants for disadvantaged students and conduct a “review of higher education finance”
  • Plan to introduce a statutory Student Mental Health Charter that will require all universities to make mental health services more accessible
  • Rejoin the EU’s Erasmus+ exchange programme
  • Plan to reform work visas with a merit-based system

Read through the Liberal Democrats manifesto to see their full plans should they win the election.

Green Party

  • Will look to replace the Home Office with a new department that “works well for immigrants”
  • Reduce visa application fees and streamline the process as a whole
  • Invest over £30 billion in research and development
  • End the minimum income requirement for spouses of those holding work visas

Take a look through the Green Party's manifesto so you have all the information you need before the election.

Reform UK

  • Will extend repayment period on student loans to 45 years
  • Want to introduce two-year graduate courses to “reduce student debt and allow earlier entry into employment to help pay it off”
  • Cut funding to universities that they see as undermining free speech or allow political bias
  • Bring in new visa rules for international students that bar dependants
  • Reduce immigration via degree courses they see as ‘low quality’
  • Will only allow international students who have essential skills to remain in the UK

Find out more about Reform UK's policies by looking through their party manifesto.

Plaid Cymru

  • Want to introduce a free grant of £5,000 to all adults over 25 that are studying or training in a new subject
  • Encourage more domestic and international students to study at Welsh universities
  • Want to offer childcare to “those who want to learn and have children”
  • Will look to make university education free for all students attending Welsh universities

Plaid Cymru haven’t referenced any policies specific to international student visas or immigration in their 2024 manifesto.

Scottish National Party

  • Want to rejoin the Erasmus+ programme
  • Aim to keep free university tuition in Scotland
  • Wants Scotland to have full powers over its own immigration policies
  • Supports freedom of movement within the EU and wants it to be easier for EU citizens to live, study and work in Scotland

Read about the SNP's other policies by reading through their 2024 manifesto.

With the UK election fast approaching, understanding each party’s stance on education is essential when it comes to casting your vote on polling day. Happy voting!

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Last updated: 28 June 2024