Electoral Register: Students

Cabinet Office written question – answered on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Chris Ruane Chris Ruane Shadow Minister (Wales)

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of (a) the University of Sheffield's initiative on voter registration for students and (b) mandating universities to promote students to register to vote.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

The Government is encouraged by the University of Sheffield’s experience but has no plans to mandate a single approach across the country.

The Government is, however, committed to ensuring the electoral registration system is responsive to the needs of students. Ministerial Guidance was issued to the Office for Students (OfS) in February 2018 acting on a commitment made in Parliament during the

passage of the Higher Education and Research Act (2017), directing that they require Higher Education providers to comply with Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) requests for data and they be encouraged to work with Local Authorities to promote electoral registration amongst their student populations. The merits of working closely with EROs have been demonstrated by a number of Higher Education providers across the country.

Yet, the Government does not believe that one size fits all and instead favours an approach which allows innovation.

The Ministerial Guidance has since been used by the OfS to produce their own guidance to Higher Education providers, which advises them how they might best implement, and abide by, the requirements placed on them. The OfS guidance came into force in August. The Government is committed to ensuring everyone who is eligible to register to vote is able to do so and, in 2014, introduced online registration for the first time. Statistics show young people aged between 14 and 24 are more likely than average to use this as a means of registering to vote.

The Government believes these measures will drive up the number of applications to register from students – improving both the completeness and accuracy of the electoral register – as well as further improve the relationships between Higher Education provider and Local Authorities.

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