Statistics published from the 2013 YUSU elections show a decrease in the percentage of students voting. Thirty-three point eight per cent of students at the University voted last year, down by three per cent on the year before. The number of candidates running for positions also dropped from 53 in 2012 to 38 in 2013.
The statistics also show a disproportionate number of home students voting in the elections, compared to postgraduates and overseas students.
Postgraduates make up a quarter of the student population, yet they represented less than 7 per cent of the total number of students who voted in the elections last year.
Although 17.5 per cent of students at the University are from overseas, they represented less than 8 per cent of the students who voted.
Commenting on the under representation of these groups, Kallum Taylor, YUSU President said:
“The unfulfilled integration potential of overseas students coming to the UK, and an innocent ignorance of their needs and wants, is something which needs addressing.
“YUSU [also] needs to (and we want to) do more to understand the issues [postgraduates] face… Even though more postgraduates vote in YUSU elections than the GSA [Graduate Student Association] postgraduate union elections, we’re still not happy with it. There’s a clear, clear gap in representation and campaigning on behalf of postgraduates which needs filling. If the GSA won’t do it, we have to.”
Voting turnout also varied across departments. Over 60 per cent of the History department voted compared with under 4 per cent of students studying health sciences.
Students in the Hull-York Medical School had the second lowest election turnout with only 12.2 per cent of medical students voting. The Politics department also came below the University average with 31.9 per cent of Politics students voting, 13 per cent below the Mathematics and Biology departments.
When asked to comment on the low voter turnout in the medical department, third-year medical student, Victoria Watkins said: “The University don’t do enough to make us feel part of the process. HYMS feels very separate to the University, and I don’t think people feel the elections matter much to them.”
The data also reveals the number of candidates running for the main committee positions decreased by 15 this year, despite there being double the number of candidates for YUSU president.
The majority of these candidates were studying arts degrees in their second year at university, and 80 per cent of them classified themselves as ‘White British’ when asked their ethnicity.
The number of ballots cast in elections has been increasing year on year since 2010 and the University of York still has one of the highest student election turnout rates in the country.
Taylor went on to say: “The turnout in YUSU spring-time elections are something for us to have a lot of reassurance in when compared to the vast majority of SUs in the UK – we’re in the top 10, in fact.
“Furthermore, in the last three years turnout has increased by nearly 10,000… So we’re getting there, one way or another.”