20 students from Abertay University attended First Minister’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 23 March – the day it was officially dissolved in preparation for the Scottish election.
The students – who were studying subjects as diverse as Ethical Hacking, Biomedical Science and Mental Health Nursing – heard politicians speak on a range of issues, including recent changes to higher education funding.
The visit was organised by Conor Marshall, President of Abertay Students’ Association, who wanted to give those not engaged with politics a chance to find out more about how the decisions that politicians make in the chamber affect their daily lives.
As well as listening to First Minister's Questions, the students spoke with Jenny Marra MSP (Labour), Christian Allard MSP (SNP), Kezia Dugdale MSP (Scottish Labour Leader) and Willie Rennie MSP (Liberal Democrat Leader), posing some challenging questions of their own.
These included queries about why there has been no increase in bursary support for student nurses in the past five years, how the Brexit would affect EU students studying in Scotland, and what is going to be done about the deportation of international students at the end of their studies.
Explaining his reasons for setting up this opportunity Conor Marshall, President of Abertay SA, said:
“There is, at the very least, a perceived absence of political activity on our campus compared to other university campuses. I organised the trip because I wanted to start improving student engagement with Scottish politics and to raise the level of discourse and awareness on campus. One way to achieve that aim was to drop students in the middle of it.
“I know from experience that it's hard for students to not get involved when they understand how much of their everyday lives political decisions affect. That was illustrated by our time in the chamber when the topics the MSP's were discussing were as diverse as superfast broadband, Scottish pork in supermarkets and higher education funding.
"To be in the Scottish Parliament on the day that the Parliament was officially dissolved in the run-up to the Scottish election was hugely exciting and I was so impressed by the professionalism and boldness of our students as they posed very difficult and challenging questions to the MSPs who represent them in the Scottish Parliament."
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