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Frequently asked questions

General FAQs

When is the next general election?

The next general election is on Thursday 4 July 2024

How does our college follow the rules on campaigning in the run-up the election?

There are two areas of relevant regulations for colleges to be aware of; electoral law and charity law. 

Electoral law (regulated by the Electoral Commission) sets stipulations on the campaigning activity that third parties can undertake during the year proceeding an election which could reasonably be deemed to have the express aim of influencing the election in favour of an election candidate or political party. This includes things like political donations over a certain threshold. We don’t foresee any college activity falling foul of these regulations. 

The Electoral Commission states that schools and colleges may undertake activities during the pre-election period to raise pupils’ awareness and understanding of the political process. These include hustings events and visits by local candidates or political party representatives.

College corporations are also subject to charity law. Charity Commission guidance states that a charity must not give its support to one political party. However, it may express support for particular policies which will contribute to the delivery of its own charitable purposes so long as its independence is maintained, and perceptions of its independence are not adversely affected. So while colleges can advocate for the health of the FE sector, you cannot take political positions on policy areas outside of your charitable mission.

The Cabinet Office issues guidance for government departments, civil servants and public bodies on elections. Many of the rules are written for central government and have no relevance to colleges but there is a clear statement that "updating the public with essential factual information" can continue. Colleges must continue to communicate with students, potential students, employers and the communities they serve about their activities and their courses. The full 2024 guidance is here.

We would encourage you to take particular care when posting content relating to political parties and the election on your social media. For example, do not post anything supporting a particular party, being against a particular party or on a policy outside of education and skills. 

However, if a party sets out a policy that would benefit your college or college students, you are able to comment on that. You could post something like: "If successful, the pledged investment of £200 million in adult skills would help students in X college and around the country”. However, it's important to take a consistent approach across all parties here to ensure you are not being seen to endorse one particular party.

We would also recommend avoiding any retweets of political parties and candidates during the pre-election period unless they are talking directly about a visit to your college.

What is the pre-election period?

The pre-election period of sensitivity occurs in the weeks leading up to an election or referendum. It is a time when ministers and civil servants will exercise caution in making announcements or decisions that might have an effect on the election campaign. The exact period depends on the type of election.

For a general election to the UK Parliament the pre-election period of sensitivity is not set. The Cabinet Office 2024 guidance started the election period from 25 May 2024 until 4 July 2024.

You may also hear this described as purdah. This is an old-fashioned term for this period and no longer in use by the government or civil servants. 

Can I hold a college visit for MPs and candidates during the pre-election period?

There is no definitive guidance on visits and there are no blanket bans on visits, but the final decision would rest with the college hosting. 

A reasonable question to ask is: "could a reasonable person conclude that public resources are being used to influence the outcome of the election? Judging from what we see of MP visits in colleges, it's unlikely, but if you are unsure, please do double check with us.

The Electoral Commission states that schools and colleges may undertake activities during the pre-election period to raise pupils’ awareness and understanding of the political process. These include hustings events and visits by local candidates or political party representatives.

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, created by the Democracy Club, a non-profit community interest company.

If you’re unsure, please get in touch with the Public Affairs team at public_affairs@aoc.co.uk who may be able to assist in confirming who the standing candidates are in some constituencies.

Alternatively, if you’re unsure of how to get in contact with your candidate, let us know and we can find out their contact details for you.

Can I contact my MP during the pre-election period?

When Parliament is dissolved prior to the election, every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant. All business in the House comes to an end, and MPs stop representing their constituencies. However, their offices and staff are still working and will be able to assist with pressing constituency casework, including any serious immediate issues facing your college.

What should I do if my existing MP loses their seat?

You will, of course, have a new MP who you will hopefully already have a relationship with. It's good to send them a letter of congratulations as soon as you can. It may take a number of weeks for their office to be set up and their parliamentary email address activated, but if you are unsure of their email, you can still send a thank you letter to their campaign email address. 

You could also write a letter to your outgoing MP thanking them for their support. You will be able to contact them using on their parliamentary email address for around a month after the election. 

Depending on the status of your board and the local MPs connection with the community, you might want to invite the departing MP if they’d like to become a member of the college board. If becoming a board member isn’t suitable, there may be an option of creating another position so they can become an advocate for the college. 

Hustings FAQs

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

Yes, 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.

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

In this instance, we’d recommend focusing on the constituency campus you will be holding your hustings in, as candidates and sitting MPs likely wont 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. After manifestos are released, there will be many demands on candidates’ time, and it will be more difficult for them to take part in a hustings.

Holding hustings as early as possible 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.

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

Absolutely. 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. 

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 (and 5 of the most recent 8 prime ministers) fought and lost in other constituencies before being successful.  Ensuring they understand and advocate for further education as early as possible can be really impactful.

What should I do if candidates can't attend a hustings?

We know that demands on candidates’ times will increase in the lead up to an election and it may be difficult to find a suitable time that works for multiple candidates. If your candidate can’t attend a hustings, invite them for a visit to the college instead. Alternatively, you could offer a virtual meeting your college leader.


Government business FAQs

I’m expecting a bid outcome, decision or action from DfE or another government department – what will happen?

While we don’t have an exact answer, we do know that during the “pre-election period”, the current guidance for civil servants outlines that “decisions on matters of policy, and other issues such as large and/or contentious commercial contracts, on which a new government might be expected to want the opportunity to take a different view from the present government”.

In terms of government business, Ministers are appointed by the King and they will continue in their role during the campaign. However, they are restricted as to what they can do. This Institute for Government note provides a good explanation of what the restrictions are. 

Departments will be functioning and will still approve any urgent decisions or decisions that do not fall under the restrictions. Some officials may be cautious in their interpretation of the guidance and defer a decision but since we are in the last year of a fully committed three-year budget, there are fewer new initiatives and bids that need responding to, only some smaller allocations and decisions, we may find a lot of these going forward.


In the first instance, we encourage colleges to get in touch with the relevant department if they haven’t already, and to get in touch with your AD to raise it and bring it to our attention, as we may be able also to raise this with officials. However, some delays may be unavoidable.

Voter registration and student engagement FAQs

How can we encourage students to register to vote?

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.
  • Host a voter registration booth at upcoming career fairs and open days, and invite your local election team to come along. You can find yours here. 
  • Bring in some outside expertise. Groups such as the Politics Project are offering training and resources to support your students’ democratic engagement.

There are lots of resources to support you to do this on the FE zone of the democracy classroom website.

What is auto-enrolment and how can my college implement that?

Auto-enrolment in a process that is used to support students to register to vote as part of their enrolment processes. Once integrated, this process can be used year-on-year, streamlining your voter registration activities and lessening the need for voter registration drives.

In the autumn, ​The Politics Project and Purpose Union will be supporting a cohort of colleges to set up the process to enable students to register at enrolment. You can sign up to get involved here

How can we support students to get ID to vote?

New voting photo-ID laws came into force in 2022 and this will be the first general election where voters will need to show ID to vote.

The Electoral Commission website has a full list of ID that is accepted, and this includes.

  • Passports (UK European Economic Area and Commonwealth)
  • Driving licenses
  • Proof of Age Standard Scheme (PASS) cards
  • Concessionary travel cards. Note: Student travel cards are not accepted and neither is college student ID.

Approved identification documents don’t have to be in date to be accepted. Expired ID will still be accepted providing the photograph is still a good likeness.

Students can apply for a free Voter Authority certificate here, but will need a recent digital photo of themselves and their National Insurance number, so may need college support in applying for one.

NUS is offering a free PASS (Proof of Age Standard Scheme) card through its Citizen Card (Code ‘NUS’), but students may need support when applying because they need a referee to verify details and upload a recent photo. College lecturers and administrators are able to act as referees who can confirm students details if they have no forms of official documents as outlined here. Colleges could also appoint a team member to take photos for students for their digital applications.

Who do I contact if I have any questions?

Both the Communication and Public Affairs team at AoC are always happy to help and we’ve put some key contacts below on who to contact.

  • Kate Parker – Press and PR Manager, kate.parker@aoc.co.uk
  • David MacKenzie – Public Affairs Manager, david.mackenzie@aoc.co.uk
  • Emily De Allie – Senior Communications Officer, emily.deallie@aoc.co.uk
  • Fiona Bardell – Public Affairs Officer, fiona.bardell@aoc.co.uk