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Why Students Should Vote Green

07/06/2017 11:18
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In recent years, young people have struggled to find a voice in politics. It's a vicious circle: fewer young people vote, so the government doesn't bother to listen to our concerns, so young people feel rightly disillusioned and even fewer of us turn out on polling day. It's how the coalition government got away with their outrageous hike in tuition fees, to take just one example. The received wisdom in politics seems to be that it's the grey vote that counts and young people's interests come last.

The Green Party, though, is passionately committed to listening to young people. Students in particular are at the core of the party's policies and higher education is one of our key priorities in the upcoming General Election. We believe in making education accessible for everyone and we firmly reject the marketisation that is rapidly sweeping through the university sector. A degree is about learning and development - it's not a financial transaction.

So what does this actually mean for the average student? First of all, the Green Party promises to scrap tuition fees and write off student debt. This, we believe, will open the door for many people who want to study at university but are put off by the enormous debt a degree will leave them saddled with. The Greens also plan to reinstate the Education Maintenance Grant, which would support those from the poorest backgrounds to get a degree-level education.

We'll also boost the quality of teaching by improving employment practices at universities. At the moment, many lecturers are on zero-hours or temporary contracts, which makes for a stressful and precarious working environment. We believe that better staffing policy means better teaching. Another Green Party pledge is to improve staff/student ratios at universities to ensure all students have the learning and pastoral support they need.

Recently, the National Student Survey (NSS) has been at the centre of some controversy. Although student boycotts have successfully blocked its use as a measure for raising tuition fees as part of the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), at least for now, it still functions as a blunt instrument for ranking universities. The Green Party would scrap the NSS and its culture of 'customer satisfaction', replacing it instead with forms of feedback that allow students to reflect meaningfully on their learning experiences.

Then there's the potentially disastrous impact of Brexit on British universities, many of which rely heavily on EU research funds. As well as fighting against the prospect of a hard Brexit on all fronts, the Green Party pledges to create a UK equivalent of the EU higher education funding that is set to be lost.

Finally, the Green Party is keen to address student wellbeing, which is currently at disgracefully low levels. Mental health is another top Green priority; we pledge to follow through where the Tories failed in creating parity between physical and mental health provision in the NHS. Our overall higher education policy, meanwhile, addresses many of the root causes of stress and anxiety in students, who are currently burdened with panic-inducing levels of debt and denied the support they need.

It's easy to feel alienated from Westminster and apathetic about parliamentary politics. At the moment we have an unrepresentative electoral system and a government who clearly don't care about young people. But with the support of students and young people from across the UK, the Green Party can begin to change that. Our promise is a voice for everyone, regardless of age or background. So make sure yours is heard on 8 June.

Catherine Love is a member of the Young Greens press and media subcommittee.

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