Fees fail to sway student voters

January 28, 2005

Only one in five students will cast their vote because of concerns about tuition fees at the next general election, according to an exclusive poll for The Times Higher .

While 20 per cent of undergraduates said tuition fees would determine their political preference, 25 per cent said the economy or Iraq were the most decisive factors. Fifteen per cent said the state of public services would settle their vote.

A poll of 1,000 students at more than 103 institutions by Opinionpanel Research has revealed that the Liberal Democrats remain the overall favourite. But Labour has narrowed the gap after last year's furore over tuition fees.

The Liberal Democrats claim 31 per of the undergraduate vote - down from 47 per cent last August - while the Labour share of the vote has increased from 20 per cent to 28 per cent. The Tories' share of the vote has fallen from 23 per cent to 16 per cent.

But the headline figures from the latest poll also mask differences on the campus. Labour attracts more support than any other party among third-years - 32 per cent - but only 25 per cent of freshers. It also appears that freshers feel more strongly about tuition fees than third-years.

While 24 per cent of first-year students said education/tuition fees would determine their vote, 14 per cent of finalists said the same.

Third-years appeared to be more concerned about their job prospects, with 28 per cent saying that the economy was their chief concern. Just 9 per cent of first-years agreed.

Kat Fletcher, president of the National Union of Students, said: "The results of this poll are very exciting. The student vote is a big worry to the Government at general election time, when students are able turn their voices on issues such as tuition fees into votes."

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