A survey carried out by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has found that seven out of ten students would vote to stay in the EU if a referendum were held tomorrow.
The findings, which are based on a survey of 1,005 students, show that a majority of students would vote to stay in the EU. However, the report analysis states that “students are not a lost cause for those campaigning for the UK to leave the EU”. The report revealed that “around one-third of students say they have given the topic only ‘little thought’ (21 per cent) or ‘no thought at all’ (13 per cent)…a similar proportion say they hold their views ‘not very strongly’ (27 per cent) or ‘not strongly at all’ (6 per cent)”.
Universities UK, the vice-chancellors’ representative organisation, are currently campaigning for an “in” vote to argue that it would be in the interests of British universities to stay in the EU. However, their decision to adopt a stance on the EU referendum has been criticised by those who think that the organisation should not have taken sides in a political debate.
Nick Hillman, HEPI’s director and a former government special adviser on higher education, said: “It is clear the UK’s membership of the EU is more popular among students than among the population as a whole. There are diehard antis on university campuses but they make up only a small minority of students”.
Hillman also added that “because students are spread all over the country, their voting power was diluted at the general election. That will not be the case in a binary stay/leave national referendum…Indeed, if the ‘stay’ and ‘leave’ sides are as close as recent polls suggest, then the two million UK students could clearly affect the result one way or the other.”
HEPI said that its survey shows that, despite the fact Universities UK does not represent students, its position “of favouring the UK’s continued membership of the EU…does still reflect the views of students.”
This week, leading academics at British universities have warned that an exit from the EU would be detrimental to the economic health of UK institutions. Mike Galsworthy, a visiting researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has said: “Nothing good can come of it.”
Explaining his point, Mike said: “the EU is one huge community of talent…You can put together multinational, innovative, bespoke teams to tackle the really big global challenges. It’s not just the money; that could, maybe, be compensated.
It’s that we’re on top of this massive engine, driving us all forward together… Hoping British science would do as well if we weren’t is like imagining Lionel Messi would be the player he was without the Barcelona first team playing all round him.”