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University and college is a very important transitional period for most, with experiences that will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of students and enabling them to form strong identities. Whilst the principle aim of a university education is of course to study the field that students have chosen to work within, it’s commonly accepted that much of what a student learns occurs outside of the lecture hall. Generally, there is a wealth of extracurricular activities made available for individuals during their time in education, and if a student passes up these opportunities they can come to regret not immersing themselves fully in them later.

Engaging with issues
For many, university may be the first time that students have taken an interest in politics and the issues that affect them, and if this hasn’t been nurtured within the family home or during their previous academic life, a gentle nudge in the right direction could enable them to find their voice and make a difference.

Many decisions made my governments affect young people adversely, and without them coming together to protest and make their voices heard there is no opposition to unfair policies and plans made that may compromise their well-being. High tuition fees and a lack of postgraduate opportunities are just two issues that spring to mind when it comes to the political life of students, and if an interest in politics isn’t encouraged, unfair legislation and suchlike can easily be made a reality.

Nurturing confidence
When people come together to work towards a common goal, great results can be achieved, with lifelong friendships being made along the way. When people feel that they have the capacity to make a difference, their well-being can be heightened and this could lead to a lifelong dedication towards making a positive change to the world, not just for themselves but for subsequent generations too.

Students may never have another chance to encounter like-minded people in such big groups again, and their negotiating skills and social well-being can also be strengthened through the sense of community spirit that an engagement with politics provides. They may never find themselves amongst such diverse communities again either – meaning that engaging within these communities enables them to discover more about the world and different cultures along the way.

A balancing act
Encouraging an interest in politics whilst relatively young reduces the chance of irreversible political apathy setting in, and in turn emphasizes the importance of democracy and the privilege of being able to vote alongside the struggles endured in the past in order to provide people with an influence. Of course, there is a need to balance classroom affairs and other obligations sensibly, but there are numerous transferable skills to take from political activism during academic life. Leadership skills, social confidence and working as part of a team not only look great on a CV but encourage students to become more engaged with an educational institution as a whole.

Some may argue that universities should concentrate on their core academic aims leaving students to discover politics through alternative routes, whilst others would say that political activism provides experience that will benefit students back in the lecture hall or classroom. Others may also argue that encouraging political action may also nurture a mob mentality, with recent riots in particular being cited as evidence of this, though the causes of such scenes seem multiple and difficult to single out. Whatever the viewpoint, it seems hard to deny that political activism during academia can foster a lifelong dedication to making a change.

This blog post was written on behalf of OCVC.