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Colleges Week 2024: frequently asked questions

Why did you move the date of Colleges Week?

There were several reasons for this decision. It is looking increasingly likely that a general election will be held in the Autumn, and we wanted to avoid our week of activity clashing with the pre-election or election period.

General election aside, hosting Colleges Week in October also clashes with party conference season, parliamentary recesses and is closely followed by AoC Annual Conference and Exhibition. We were also aware that the usual dates in October often fell over half-term for some, and therefore moving it to a term-time week for all ensures everyone has an equal opportunity to get involved.

We know that there is never a quiet time for colleges, but we are hopeful that a move to the spring allows both AoC and colleges to have more space and time to campaign successfully.

Colleges Week 2023 was only a few months ago – are the messages the same?

This year we’ve changed our Colleges Week messages and actions slightly to reflect the fact that we will almost certainly have a 2024 general election. We’re focusing on influencing policy in both the short and long term, actively engaging with key stakeholders, and continuing to celebrate your successes.

We’ve suggested five areas where you can carry out activities:

  1. Engage with your MPs and politicians
  2. Spark your students’ interest
  3. Secure media coverage
  4. Make a splash on social media
  5. Reach out to your local organisations

We’ve shared ideas on what actions you can take in each of these areas, and resources to help you do that here.

If you have any existing activities planned for that week, you might want to brand them as Colleges Week events. Make sure to promote it on social media using the hashtags #LoveOurColleges and #CollegesWeek2024.

Can I hold a hustings if not all the candidates have been decided?

Yes, you can hold a hustings if not all the candidates have been decided by their respective political parties, as long as you invite the candidates that have been confirmed as standing.

The non-selective hustings good practice guidance by the Electoral Commission explains that you must be clear with the audience at the hustings that some parties aren’t represented as they haven’t confirmed their candidate at the time of organising.

How can I find out who is standing in my constituency?

Unfortunately, there is not yet one comprehensive resource of candidates standing in the upcoming general election. However, there are a few sources you can check.

You can find out if your constituency has a confirmed Labour Party candidate here and Liberal Democrat candidate here. For all other political parties, Who Can I Vote For has a list of parties and candidates standing in constituencies – this is created by the Democracy Club, a non-profit community interest company.

What if I have more than one constituency in my college group?

We know that some college groups cover several different constituencies. In this instance, we’d recommend focusing on the constituency campus you will be holding your hustings in, as candidates and sitting MPs might not attend hustings that are held in a different constituency from the one they are representing or standing in.

Shouldn’t I wait until the manifestos are published?

The manifestos of each political party are still in the process of being developed and will not be published until a pre-election period is well underway and the campaign is in full swing. After manifestos are released, there will be many demands on candidates’ time, and will likely be more difficult for them to take part in a hustings.

Holding hustings during Colleges Week will mean you get early engagement with candidates and ensure they understand further education and the work your college does. The earlier this happens in the campaign, the better.

What if I am in a safe seat? Is it still worth holding a hustings?

Absolutely. As ever, there are no guarantees in politics and traditionally safe seats are not as safe as they once were. Regardless of the perceived safety of your seat, it is still a good chance to renew and strengthen your relationship with your existing MP (or new candidate, if they are standing down) and encourage them to advocate for further education. Your MP may end up moving into government from the opposition, which is a great opportunity for influencing. Alternatively, your MP may stay in opposition, or move from government to the opposition benches. It’s really important to have knowledgeable and supportive MPs able to hold the next government to account from the opposition benches, so it’s vital to build relationships with them as well.

The parliamentary candidates of today often end up being the MPs of tomorrow, even if they don’t succeed the first time around. Many current MPs fought and lost in other constituencies before being successful in their current seat, so ensuring they understand and advocate for further education as early as possible can be really impactful.

How can we encourage voter registration if we are unable to do it at enrolment?

We’ll be sharing more information on how you can set-up voter auto enrolment soon. Even if you aren’t able to do that in your college, there’s lots of things you can do to support students to register to vote (reminder – you can register to vote at 16).

  • Support your student services team to hold a voter registration afternoon where students can come in and register to vote.
  • Encourage your student union or your politics and public services students to run a campaign to help fellow students at the college register to vote. This could involve presenting at a college assembly, hosting a lunch and learn session at the library or computer lab, or having a sign-up desk at the college café.
  • Bring in some outside expertise. Groups such as the Politics Project and Democracy Classroom offer training and resources to support your students’ democratic engagement.
  • Host a voter registration booth at upcoming career fairs and open days.

How can colleges leverage Colleges Week to highlight their collaborations with local employers and organisations?

Colleges Week is a fantastic opportunity to showcase your successful partnerships with employers and organisations. This can be achieved by inviting them to participate in various activities during the week.

Colleges can organise a range of activities, such as employer engagement sessions like roundtables or lunchtime discussions on local skills gaps and priority initiatives like sustainability or digital skills. Additionally, hosting talks with students to demystify specific industry work or discuss innovations can be impactful.

How can colleges involve local employers and organisations in events with MPs and candidates?

Colleges organising roundtables or hustings with local MPs and candidates should extend invitations to local employers and organisations. Sharing these events on social media using the hashtag #LoveOurColleges can help amplify their impact.

What content should colleges share with local employers and organisations in advance?

Sharing Colleges Week graphics with local partners ahead of time helps create complementary social media messaging. This enhances the visibility of key messages during Colleges Week.

Colleges are encouraged to share content related to local priorities, especially those aligned with the AoC short-term and long-term asks for the government. This allows partners to plan and contribute supportive content.

How can colleges involve local employers and organisations in supporting AoC campaigns, specifically related to the spring budget?

Colleges can ask local employers and organisations to co-sign letters outlining AoC's key asks for the spring budget sent to the government. Additionally, reaching out to local MPs to share these calls is appreciated and helps garner broader support.

By implementing these strategies, colleges can enhance their engagement with local employers and organisations during Colleges Week and contribute to the success of the campaign.