A survey conducted by The Glasgow Guardian has revealed that 31.4% of respondents do not plan on voting in this year's student elections and 20% were unsure. The survey was conducted in the run-up to the Glasgow Uni Spring Elections which will be open 6-7 March.
Among the main problems identified by the survey were a general lack of awareness about the student elections, a lack of interest, and a general distrust in the effectiveness of student politics.
35.7% of those surveyed did not believe that student elections could implement real change on campus and 21.4% were unsure.
44.8% of respondents who hadn’t previously voted in GU student elections blamed the lack of access to information, and 37.9% believed student politics were unimportant and uninteresting.
94% of respondents who had previously voted in campus elections voted in the SRC elections. With 50% voter turnout among the respondents, the QMU elections had a better turnout than the GUU and GUSA (both 40%).
When asked what would encourage more students to vote in elections, 57.8% of respondents said that they would feel more encouraged to vote if more candidates stood for election, therefore making voting feel impactful. Of the 39 SRC positions up for election this year, 18 candidates are running unopposed and nine positions do not have a single candidate running. 51.6% answered that they would feel encouraged to vote by more awareness on campus, eg through advertising. This may account for the fact that just under a third of respondents did not know how to vote in campus elections.
When given the opportunity to comment further, the respondents seemed overall rather pessimistic regarding the elections. One respondent claimed that the elections feel more like a "popularity contest" than an opportunity to actually implement change. Others shared this feeling, stating that, “No one can blame students for being disengaged when those elected don't even bother following through on their pledges, and some candidates think being funny or memey is a basis to get elected on." Similarly, others commented that student politics are relatively powerless in the scheme of the University hierarchy where, "even high SRC representatives struggle to implement any kind of real change. The system has recently included students in the processes of decision-making, but more so symbolically than with any practical power."
Lauren McDougall, current SRC President, provided the following statement: “The SRC are the only representative body for students at the University of Glasgow, and it is the representatives standing in these elections who will take issues to the University on behalf of all 28,000 students next year. The SRC have 4 full-time sabbatical officers, as well as a further 43 voluntary roles, who represent you every day from School level right to the highest committees at the University, including Senate and University Court. The SRC are instrumental in driving change to enhance the student experience at Glasgow including securing increased investment in vital services like Counselling, new policies to support an inclusive and accessible learning environment for all, and we were the first student body in the UK to establish ground-breaking peer-led initiatives tackling sexual violence and mental health, just to mention a few things (and you can find out more about the wins that have been achieved over the last few years on our website). But we need you to use your voice to elect the right candidates to represent you, and it couldn’t be easier; you can vote from any device at any time between 9am on the 6th to 5pm on the 7th and you can also get involved by coming along to the Hustings events to find out more about what the candidates are promising to do for you.”