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Exclusive: Your Vote Could Swing the Election If You Study at These Unis

VICE analysis of polling data reveals the Tory marginal seats with large university populations – places where the youth vote could decide the balance of power in Westminster.

by Zing Tsjeng
18 November 2019, 12:20pm

Do you go to UWE Bristol? Brunel University? Loughborough? You might be one of the students whose votes could kick a Conservative MP out of office.

Exclusive VICE analysis reveals the 20 universities located in some of the most marginal Tory seats in the upcoming general election.

The South West has five Tory seats that are vulnerable to the student vote, followed by four in London, the Midlands and Scotland each; three in the South East, and one in the North West and East Anglia respectively.

If enough students from these Tory marginals identified by VICE register to vote locally and turn up in enough numbers, they could feasibly unseat their incumbent MP. And we’re not talking thousands. In some cases, it would take only a few dozen votes.

Take Southampton Itchen, home to both Solent University and University of Southampton halls. Tory MP Royston Smith only won 31 more votes than Labour’s second-placed candidate in 2017. No wonder the South East constituency is viewed as one of the battleground seats that could decide the election and, ultimately, who walks into Number 10.

That’s assuming, obviously, that the left-wing vote isn’t split between the other parties – hence why the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and Plaid Cymru have forged an electoral pact to stand down in certain constituencies to maximise the chances of a Remain-supporting party getting into power.

There is no exact definition for what constitutes a marginal seat. For the sake of simplicity, VICE have chosen to look at constituencies with small vote differences between the first and second-place candidate. We also referred to data from Vote For Your Future, a non-partisan organisation that encourages young people to vote, and polling firms Electoral Calculus and Flavible.

We then cross-referenced these with the student accommodation of any local universities that fall within the constituency to calculate the total number of students who reside in those halls.

The actual figure may be much higher as many students opt to live in rented non-university accommodation, though the proportion of those eligible to vote may vary depending on the number of international students who live in those halls. (Important caveat: Irish citizens and Commonwealth citizens with leave to enter and remain the UK can also vote.)

Given that the election falls towards the end of term, we have also provided the end of term date for these universities. The exact date may differ depending on individual factors like coursework deadlines and exams.

Traditionally, students tended to vote at home. But if you’re one of the students from the universities identified by VICE, your vote may count for more if you stay in halls to vote or send off a postal vote from uni. (That’s assuming, of course, that you don’t come from another marginal seat.) And registering to vote is simple – all you need to do is sign up here.

Young people have historically accounted for a sliver of overall voter turnout. In 2005, only 7 percent of all votes cast were by young people. But that looks set to change – 64 percent of registered voters aged 18-24 voted in 2017. It was the highest youth turnout in 25 years, but still trailing around 10 percentage points behind voters aged 45 and up.

This election has been dubbed one of the most unpredictable in decades. Burning issues like Brexit and climate change have altered the political landscape beyond recognition, meaning that every vote matters – including and especially those of young people.

With young people accounting for a surge of voter registration this autumn and more than half of young people prepared to vote tactically on Brexit, it’s time to make sure your voice is heard. Read on to see if your university falls in a crucial Tory marginal.

LONDON

1. BRUNEL UNIVERSITY

Brunel falls squarely into the Uxbridge and South Ruislip consituency of one Alexander Boris Pfeffel Johnson. He’s being challenged by Labour candidate Ali Milani, a 25-year-old working class immigrant who is hoping to pull off the impossible and become the first candidate to unseat a sitting prime minister.

Labour are going in hard on this marginal, where Johnson has the smallest constituency majority of any prime minister since 1924, and they’re looking to secure the student vote. All of Brunel’s campus accommodation is in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, including its biggest halls of residence – Isambard Complex, home to over 1,300 voters.

Tory majority: 5,034
Student halls population: 4,601
End of term: 13 December

2. MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY

Tory MP Matthew Offord is seeking reelection in his Hendon seat, which he won in 2017 with only 1,072 votes more than the second-placed Labour candidate. Students who live in Platt Hall, Usher Hall and Writtle House can all register to vote in Hendon. The election is likely to get messy here – Politics.co.uk named Hendon among a “clutch of Remainy seats that could become messy three-way marginals” – so every vote counts.

Tory majority: 1,072
Student halls population: 309
End of term: 13 December

3. UNIVERSITY OF LONDON AND IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON

Cities of London and Westminster was represented by Mark Field, better known as the Tory MP who grabbed an climate protester by the throat. Field is stepping down and the seat is being contested by Tory councillor Nickie Aiken, Labour candidate Gordon Nardell and Chuka Umunna, one-time Labour leader hopeful turned Lib Dem.

Two University of London intercollegiate halls (Nutford House and Lillian Penson Hall) fall within the constituency and are home to large numbers of students from university colleges like LSE, Kings College London, Cortauld Institute of Art and UCL.

Students from college-specific halls like Grosvenor House (LSE), Northumberland House (LSE), Tower Bridge (KCL) and Duchy House (Cortauld) can also register to vote in the constituency.

Students from Beit Hall, Eastside, Southside and Wilson House from Imperial College London – formerly a University of London college – can also register to vote in Cities of London and Westminster.

Tory majority: 3,148
Student halls population: 2,927
End of term: 13-14 December (varies between colleges)

4. UNIVERSITY OF ROEHAMPTON

Putney was former Conservative minister Justine Greening’s old seat – she was ignominiously kicked out of her own party for rebelling on Brexit and is stepping down at this election. This will be a hard one to call, especially since it’s home to some very angy Tory voters who voted to remain and are feeling increasingly betrayed by Johnson’s party.

Roehampton has five student halls in Putney (Bede House, Elm Grove Hall, Lee House, Newman House and Shaw House) totalling over 800 students – more than half of the number of votes that got Greening to victory in 2017.

Tory majority: 1,554
Student halls population: 810
End of term: 20 December

THE MIDLANDS

5. LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY

Culture Secretary and Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan quit this year as part of an exodus of Tory moderates who aren’t seeking reelection. Labour is going head to head with the Conservatives here, and Loughborough students could tip the balance of power. All 16 university halls fall within the constituency, totalling thousands of potential votes.

Tory majority: 4,269
Student halls population: 5,899
End of term: 13 December

6. UNIVERSITY OF NORTHAMPTON

Lucky Northampton students – the university campus falls into not one, but two marginals. Tory MP Andrew Lewer represented Northampton South with a majority of 1,159 votes, while his Northampton North neighbour Michael Ellis squeezed into power on just 807 more votes than the 2017 Labour candidate.

Students who live in Waterside Student Village are represented by Lewer, while those at St John’s Hall, Broughton Green Road Halls and Bassett Lowke Halls are represented by Ellis. To give you an idea of the stakes – if less than 1,000 students who lived in the Northampton North constituency had voted for the second place candidate in the 2017 election, Ellis might not have become MP.

Tory majority: 1,159 (Northampton South); 807 (Northampton North)
Student halls population: 956 (Northampton South); 1,538 (Northampton North)
End of term: 16 December

7. UNIVERSITY OF WORCESTER

Worcester MP Robin Walker is seeking reelection here and hoping to increase his share of the vote from the 2,490 vote majority he gained in the 2017 election. His constituency is home to St John’s Campus, City Campus and City Centre accommodation – all student halls where voters can register to vote for him (or not). Notably, the Tories have splashed the cash on Worcester voters, indicating their enthusiasm to defend this seat.

Tory majority: 2,490
Student halls population: 897
End of term: 23 December

SOUTH EAST

8. SOLENT UNIVERSITY

The university falls squarely in the Southampton Itchen constituency of Royston Smith, a Tory MP who scraped into office with a tiny majority of 31 votes in 2017. All 2,000 or so students who live in Solent halls are eligible to vote in the ward. It’s the fifth most marginal seat in the UK – this will be a key battleground seat for Labour.

Tory majority: 31
Student halls population: 2,054
End of term: 16 Dec

9. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON

Like Northampton, the Southampton campus crosses multiple constituency lines. Depending on where they live in halls, students can vote in Romsey and Southampton North, Southampton Itchen and Winchester.

Romsey and Southampton North is represented by Caroline Nokes, who has a majority of 18,006 and is facing a challenge from the Liberal Democrats who placed second in 2017. Royston Smith – who has a majority of 31 – is under pressure from Labour in Southampton Itchen. Students at the Winchester-based campus for the School of Art are represented by Steven Brine, a Tory MP who won in 2017 with a 9,999 vote majority.

Tory majority: 18,006 (Romsey); 31 (Southampton Itchen); Winchester (9,999)
Student halls population in halls: 4,263 (Romsey); 1,504 (Southampton Itchen); 520 (Winchester)
End of term: 14 Dec

10. UNIVERSITY OF SURREY

Guildford has been called a true-blue Tory seat, but it also voted heavily to remain. Anne Milton MP won a 17,000 majority in 2017, but is now standing as an independent after she was booted out of the Conservatives over her opposition to a no-deal Brexit. Can you say the words “four-way marginal”?

The constituency is also home to thousands of students from the University of Surrey, including four huge halls: Hazel Farm, Stag Hill Campus, Manor Park and Guildford Court. Stag Hill alone has over 2,000 potential voters living there. We hope they like four-horse races!

Tory-turned-Independent majority: 17,040
Student halls population: 5,503
End of term: 23 December

SOUTH WEST

11. FALMOUTH UNIVERSITY

Depending on where they live, students in Falmouth halls could fall in the two marginals of Truro and Falmouth or Camborne and Redruth.

Three halls (Maritime Studios, Tuke House, Packsaddle Hill) fall in Truro, where the local Conservative MP Sarah Newton is standing down for reelection. The Sidings, a student residence shared with students from Exeter, is also in the constituency.

Things haven’t gone well for George Eustice, the Tory MP seeking reelection in Camborne and Redruth – he’s just been accused of lying about one of his constituents. (Considering he was only voted into power by 1,557 votes, you’d think he’d be a little bit more circumspect about pissing a potential voter off.)

Students who live at Glasney Student Village – another halls of residence shared with Exeter – have the chance to cast their vote in this constituency.

Tory majority: 3,792 (Truro); 1,557 (Camborne)
Student halls population: 655 (Truro); 1,800 (Camborne – total combined with Exeter)
End of term: 16 December

12. UNIVERSITY OF EXETER

Like Falmouth students, those attending Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall could find themselves falling in the constituency of Truro and Falmouth or Camborne and Redruth. There are 233 beds for Exeter students in the Sidings. The university also shares Glasney Student Village with Falmouth.

Tory majority: 3,792 (Truro); 1,577 (Camborne)
Student halls population: 233 (Truro); 1,800 (Camborne – total combined with Falmouth)
End of term: 13 December

13. UNIVERSITY OF GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Gloucestershire students in halls could live in two possible marginals: Cheltenham and Gloucester. In Cheltenham, Tory MP Alex Chalk is campaigning for reelection but faces a strong challenge from the Liberal Democrats, who placed second in 2017. The constituency has highlighted by the Guardian and the Daily Mail as a key test for the Lib Dems – if they can’t win this Remain-backing seat, their success on election night will be thrown into doubt.

Students living in Pitville Student Village, Shaftesbury Hall, Hardwick, Park Villas and Park Challinor all live in Chalk’s constituency. Those in Blackfriars and Emin Hall fall in the constituency of Gloucester, which was won by Tory MP Richard Graham in 2017 with 5,520 more votes than Labour.

Tory majority: 2,569 (Cheltenham); 5,520 (Gloucester)
Student halls population: 1,261 (Cheltenham); 385 (Gloucester)
End of term: 20 December

14. UWE BRISTOL

UWE Bristol’s constituency of Filton and Bradley Stoke is represented by Jack Lopresti, a Tory MP seeking reelection after winning 4,190 votes more than the second-place Labour candidate in 2017. It’s also home to three huge student halls: Wallscourt Park, Carroll Court and the Student Village on Frenchay Campus – the latter of which houses almost 2,000 students alone.

Tory majority: 4,190
Student halls population: 3,148
End of term: 16 December

EAST ANGLIA

15. UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX

Tory MP Will Quince snatched Colchester from the Liberal Democrats in the 2015 election and increased his majority by around 100 votes in 2017. There are two University of Essex student halls in his constituency: University Quays and the Meadows, both home to hundreds of students. Political expert John Bartle described this as a three-way marginal between the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems – taking Colchester back to 1997, when the Lib Dems nabbed it from the Tories with 1,551 votes.

Tory majority: 5,677
Student halls population: 1,414
End of term: 13 December

SCOTLAND

16. UNIVERSITY OF THE HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS

The Conservatives gained Moray from the SNP, and the SNP will be looking to take it back from Douglas Ross, the Tory MP seeking reelection this year. He’s come under fire recently for pocketing £15,000 this year with a highly lucrative side gig as a football linesman despite vowing not to let it interfere with his duties to constituents. Moray College – one of the 13 colleges and institutions that make up UHI – is in the constituency and houses a small number of students from Elgin student acommodation, although students also rent privately locally.

Tory majority: 4,159
Student halls population: 40
End of term: 6 December

17. ROBERT GORDON UNIVERSITY

The Aberdeen South constituency was represented by Tory MP Ross Thompson, who stepped down in early November after denying allegations that he groped a Labour MP in a Commons bar. The Tories are fielding another candidate, but strong polling for the SNP suggests they face a potential bloodbath in Scotland – making Aberdeen South a very closely contested seat.

The constituency is also home to four Robert Gordon University halls: Crathie Student Village, Garthdee Towers, Ramsay Development and Woolmanhill Flats. There may also be University of Aberdeen students living in the area.

Tory majority: 4,752
Student halls population: 908
End of term: 23 December

18. UNIVERSITY OF STIRLING

Stirling has been identified as one of the battleground seats of the election by publications including the Scotsman and the Daily Mail, owing partly to the fact that Tory MP Stephen Kerr squeaked into power on just 148 votes in 2017. It’s been described as the “Remainer heart of Scotland” thanks to the fact 68 percent voted to stay in the EU, and is a key target for the SNP. It’s also home to students from the University of Stirling – several thousands of them, in fact. According to its website, it provides accommodation for almost 3,000 people.

Tory majority: 148
Student halls population: 2,900
End of term: 13 December

19. UNIVERSITY OF WEST SCOTLAND (UWS) AND SCOTLAND’S RURAL COLLEGE (SRUC)

Are you tired of the words “Tory bloodbath” yet? According to leading polling expert John Curtice, “virtually every seat” in Scotland is a marginal. That includes Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, where the joint campus for UWS and SRUC is located. Ayr is looking to reelect a new MP after former Tory MP Bill Grant announced he would not contest the seat. There were less than 3,000 votes between him and his second-placed SNP opponent. The Ayr campus houses 200 students, although over 2,000 students live locally.

Tory majority: 2,774
Student halls population: 200
End of term: 14 December (SRUC); 16 December (UWS)

NORTH WEST

20. UNIVERSITY OF CUMBRIA

Three student halls from the University of Cumbria fall in the marginal Carlisle, formerly represented by Tory MP John Stevenson. He’s been in power ever since he won the seat away from Labour in 2010, but his majority has decreased since 2015. Students from Brampton Road Halls, Carrock Hall and Denton Holme Student Village are all eligible to vote in Carlisle.

Tory majority: 2,599
Student halls population: 447
End of term: 16 December

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