A SNAP General Election has been called in the UK to be held on the 8th June 2017. It is vital that as many people as possible use their local ballot box. However, what many people don’t know is that thousands of international students from Commonwealth countries, overseas territories and the Republic of Ireland can also have their say in British politics. This includes students from India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, South Africa, Australia and more, all of whom can use their vote to affect the country they live in (you can find a full list of Commonwealth countries and overseas territories here).
In the 2015 General Election, the National Indian Students Union (NISU) launched a campaign to raise awareness, encouraging Commonwealth students to participate. Sanam Arora, President of NISU, has said that:
‘Most commonwealth students do not realize that they have the legal right to vote in the UK parliamentary elections. Many of our members and the wider community we represent belong to this section and given the recent negative immigration policies it is more important than ever before for these students to come out and vote.’
With post-study work visas scrapped, and new restrictions on other visa tiers increasing each year, this election could have a big impact on the international student community and their future in the UK. Tuition fees, Brexit, immigration policies and NHS restrictions are all issues that affect international students. Some believe that these factors are already deterring students from the UK. If international student numbers continue to fall, this could have a serious impact on the quality of our higher education system, as one-eighth of university income comes from international student fees.
But the voice of international students can be a powerful one. The student vote was a huge factor in the Liberal Democrat success in 2010, making a real difference to traditional two-party politics, and now the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has put forward an International Student Manifesto of its own to highlight the issues faced by international students in the UK.
You have to register to vote, so head to govement's website to check if you are elligible and register for future elections for as long as you are studying in the UK.
This article was first written in 2015 and has been updated April 2017 to include the most current information.
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