Students have voted to give Sussex’s Students’ Union (UUSU) the green light to campaign for the remain side in the upcoming EU referendum on June 23.
543 students took part, and 78% voted in favour of the SU lobbying against Brexit.
The results roughly reflected a survey, commissioned by the University, which found 82% of Sussex students thought the UK should stay in the EU.
Rose Taylor, Students’ Union Postgraduate Education Officer, said that leaving the EU would “have a detrimental impact on students and on the UK Higher Education system.”
She continued: “Many more students would face increased financial strain and restrictions on studying abroad and there is likely to be less diversity on campus.”
However, there is evidence to suggest Brexit could attract more international students to Britain, because it would cause the pound sterling to drop on international markets, making tuition fees cheaper for foreigners.
HSBC have estimated the pound sterling could drop by as much as 20% relative to the dollar in the event of Britain exiting the EU.
This would mean a 20% discount in tuition fees for anyone paying in dollars, which might attract more foreigners to study in the UK.
In response to the Students’ Union’s announcement to rally against Brexit, Ben, a media studies student, said: “I do not think it is fair that the USSU should campaign to stay in the EU when many students haven’t made up their mind yet. By doing so it may unfairly persuade them.”
Anna, a second year Psychology student, said he thought this campaign was a “distraction” and that the Students’ Union should be involved exclusively in “the micro issues that affect students in their day-to-day lives”, rather than trying to throw its weight behind a “macro issue” over which it “realistically” has no sway.
She said: “I guess they just prefer bathing in the limelight of hot, national issues (like Brexit and Trident). But in my opinion, they should be focused entirely with on-campus concerns”.
The USSU also received a mandate from the students to capaign against the renewal of Trident, Britain’s nuclear programme.
The Union responded to the criticism, saying their constitution, the Articles of Association, compels them to represent their members’ interests in the “wider community”.
They said that the “student vote could play a decisive role in the referendum outcome”, and that “SUs have an important role to play in the national debate”.
In a talk on the 15th April called Sussex Conversations, the host, journalist Sarah Montague, asked what the Students’ Union was doing to make sure people at Sussex use their vote on the 23rd of June.
In response, President of the USSU Abe Baldry said students at Sussex “engage with political issues”, and that many of them voted in the general election, which he said boded well for turnout in June.
Research commissioned recently by the University found that, of the undergraduate students at Sussex who are eligible to vote, 65% say they are “absolutely certain tovote”. Meanwhile, 74% of eligible postgraduates intend to vote.
81% of eligible academics say they fully intend to vote; a similar percentage (78%) of professional staff say they are going to use their vote in June.