Several UEA students and Union officers are among more than 170 student representatives who have issued a last-minute plea to the UK electorate to vote Remain in tomorrow’s referendum.
The letter, published this afternoon (June 22nd) by The Independent claims that “a Leave victory would be a massive defeat for all students” and the British education sector. This sentiment is shared by outgoing Activities and Opportunities Officer, Yinbo Yu, incoming Undergrad Officer Theo Antoniou Phillips, Non-Portfolio Officer Jack Robinson, representatives from UEA Labour, Liberal Democrats, and Greens, as well as more than 170 student’s unions, NUS leaders, student campaigners and youth wings of political parties from across the UK.
The letter goes on to highlight the support that British education receives from the EU, an apparent “15 per cent of Britain’s university funding” and “£75 milion to British colleges” comes from the EU. It is suggested that leaving would not only risk these finances, but also leave education open to “further fee increases and marketisation”. According to UEA Lib Dem President Yan Malinowski “we receive so much [money] through grants and research programmes that won’t be matched post-Brexit”.
Migration has been a key point of discussion on both sides of the referendum debate, and is similarly covered by these students. However, in contrast to much of this debate’s rhetoric, there is no criticism of immigration, rather, anger is directed at austerity. “Like everyone else in Britain, we suffer from housing shortages, low wages and public services. These problems do not arise from migration; they are the product of decades of failed government policy”.
Katie Ward of UEA Labour Students was one of the signatories, and believes that a vote for Remain is a vote for international cohesion, rather than a sacrifice of sovereignty. “I signed the letter because I want people to realise that a vote to Remain is not a vote to give the future of Britain away to Angela Merkel, it’s a vote to give the future to our children and to the young people of Europe. Throughout history we have seen [the continent] torn apart by war and divided along lines of misunderstandings in culture. But, we as a generation have been spared this because we are part of a union that enables us to realise that every culture is valuable”.
Similarly, Alexander Catt of UEA Greens believes that the ability of the UK to combat a number of important international issues is dependant upon our Union membership. “Student and young people are the future of this country. To safeguard that future we have to work internationally to tackle problems which will always cross borders. Excessive corporate power, terrorism, climate change and the refugee crisis; just a few things that we have a better chance of solving inside the European Union”.
This student intervention comes amongst fears of voter apathy amongst the young electorate, whose turnout and overwhelming support for Remain could swing the result, despite polls suggesting that the result is still too close to call. With less than six hours of campaigning left, the final poll released by Opinium has given Leave at 45 per cent a one point lead over the Remain campaign, who now sit on 44 per cent support. Nine per cent of the electorate remain undecided.
The letter is printed in full below:
A Leave victory would be a massive defeat for all students. We face an ideological fight against a government committed to removing public funding from our education system and institutions, whatever the outcome of Thursday’s vote. But a vote to leave the EU – which provides 15 per cent of Britain’s university finding and a vital £75 million to British colleges – would provide an obvious hock for further fee increases and marketisation.
But, this vote is about more than money – it is about the kind of world we want to live in. We want an open, pluralist society. We value the freedom to study and work on the continent, as tens of thousands of young British people do every year. The European students who study at British universities, and the European migrants who come here to work, enrich our lives and the society we live in.
Like everyone else in Britain, we suffer from housing shortages, low wages and overstretched public services. These problems do not arise from migration; they are the product of decades of failed government policy and an economic system which exploits us for the benefit of the rich. A vote to leave will rob us of key legal protections and make these problems worse, not better. We urge all students, and everyone who cares about the future of Britain’s education system, to vote Remain on Thursday.