Advice and guidance for the 2023 elections
Posted on behalf of: Internal Communications
Last updated: Friday, 28 April 2023
- This guide aims to help staff and students who may wish to undertake certain activities during the election period.
- The University of Sussex is subject to the requirements of the Electoral Commission during an election period. This means that we have a legal obligation to comply with specific rules about how we engage with politicians and parties and that these should be followed during the pre-election period – the timeframe where individuals and parties will be campaigning to be elected to office.
- Sussex is politically impartial and should be seen to be independent from party politics. This allows us to use our voice effectively to act as advocates for staff and students, on behalf of the institution, throughout the year regardless of which political party is in power.
- The University recognises that academics and staff may wish to comment on or critique policy positions espoused by political candidates and parties during the pre-election period. The University is fully committed to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech and expression, which are protected in law and are fundamental to the University’s values.
- If you would like to work with, or are approached by a politician or candidate during this period, or are planning any events whether virtually or in person involving any political representative (including candidates not affiliated with a political party) or are aware of any staff or students who are planning to stand as a candidate, please contact the Associate Director of Public Affairs. Details are at the end of this document.
- Please be mindful about any communications or endorsements you may make from University accounts or channels (including comments, reports, briefings, emails, tweets, Facebook posts and posters) and ensure they are not party-political, or in any way infer University support of one candidate or party over another.
- This document will be posted on the University’s website and will be refreshed with any updates, as appropriate, including information from Universities UK.
The elections across the UK and local elections in Brighton & Hove in May 2023 offer Sussex students and staff a great opportunity to engage with candidates and debate a range of issues related to the political process.
You can register to vote through the GOV.UK website. There is guidance on how to do so for the local area. If you're a student living away from home, you can register to vote at your home and term-time address. This means that you can vote wherever you are at the time of the election.
The Communications, Marketing and Advancement (CMA) division will continue to identify and undertake activity to appropriately promote Sussex, its staff and students during this period – such as providing expert commentary in the media.
In addition, the University will be working with the Students’ Union, student societies and colleagues throughout the institution to try to arrange hustings for candidates. The CMA division is in touch with the political parties and related stakeholders on this front. If you are planning to hold your own political event online or in person or are approached by any candidates who wish to visit Sussex during the campaign period, please contact the Associate Director of Public Affairs. We will be able to provide advice and if needed, support you with arrangements. Contact details are at the end of this document.
The University is required to comply with the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014. The legislation is enforced by the Electoral Commission who provide guidance to non-party campaigners during the election.
As an exempt charity, the University of Sussex must comply with general principles of charity law and is advised by Charity Commission guidelines relating to elections. The main principle from the guidelines is that charities must ‘retain the essential quality of independence’.
Various local council seats will be contested on 4 May 2023. This advice note will apply from 20 March 2023 until the results of the elections in each local authority area are declared.
Pre-election period rules, which apply to the civil service and non-departmental government or arm’s-length bodies, including research councils, the Office for Students (OfS) and local authorities, will come into force no later than Thursday 13 April 2023. These rules may be relevant where the University carries out work or research in collaboration with local authorities, non-departmental government bodies or arm’s-length bodies such as Research Councils
Therefore the following guidance may apply and needs to be considered during the pre-election period:
- Researchers called upon to provide expert comment about the elections or local issues during this period should do so under their University affiliation and not attribute research to the funding body. This also applies to printed materials such as features in commercial magazines and newsletters, which may have been scheduled before the election was announced.
- Researchers scheduled to deliver papers or to speak about their research at academic or public conferences relevant to the elections must not attribute their research to the funding body.
- Any Government Department or UK Research Council funded data which relates to voting patterns or which predicts or influences voting behaviour that is currently not in the public domain should not be published during this period. This includes publication in magazines and newsletters, press releases and press announcements and academic conferences.
Any posts to websites and social media platforms should be done with due care and attention to the principles above. When writing blogs or posting views or content on websites and public social media sites about election-related issues, please ensure that they are not attributed to funding from a UK Government department or Research Council or associated with its investment.
Engaging with politicians
Sussex is politically impartial and cannot be perceived to be providing its support to any one political party, candidate or politician. If you are uncertain about whether your activity or interaction is fully compliant with any relevant legislation, regulations or guidance, we recommend that you discuss the details with a member of the CMA division. The usual policies relating to events and freedom of speech continue to apply throughout the year and so you will also need to ensure that your activities are in line with these usual University processes. These policies can be found here.
You may be asked to provide your support to a candidate in the form of a quote for campaign literature or other form of endorsement for a candidate, such as a social media post. You are of course free to do this as an individual. However, it is requested that you do not reference your role or association with the University of Sussex as it may lead to implied support of a party or candidate by the institution.
Dealing with print, broadcast and social media
You may want to share your views via your personal social media accounts or be asked for your opinion by journalists. It is vital that any party-political comments which you make are kept separate from your role at Sussex.
Even if it is your own personal Twitter or Facebook (or other social media) account, it could be apparent from your profile or a quick online search that you work for the University. People may perceive you to be representing Sussex so please be mindful of how you phrase your post. Even if your profile is private, people within your social circles may choose to share this publicly. Please consider the following:
- If your social media account states that you work for the University, it is recommended that your profile also mentions that ‘views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the University’.
- Check how you have phrased something to limit the chances of it being misinterpreted.
- The act of liking or sharing content can be viewed as an endorsement, so please take time to reflect on whether it may be interpreted as a reflection of your own views. Do take note if you are regularly posting stories from a particular type of publication or website which may be associated with certain political views.
- Honorific titles bestowed by the University, such as Professor, should not be used if you are showing your personal support for a party or candidate, as it relates to your place of employment.
If you are approached with a request to do a media interview in your professional capacity, please treat this like any other journalist enquiry and let the press office know. Ideally this would happen ahead of the interview so that the team can provide you or the journalist with any additional support.
Standing as candidates, acting as party officials or campaigning for a political party/ candidate
How and what staff wish to do for a political party is a matter for each individual as long as they do this work in their own time and not during contracted working hours, not on University premises, nor with University resources. Candidates or party officials (including volunteers) must ensure that it is clear that they do not represent the University whilst participating in campaign activities.
If you wish to stand as a candidate or are a party official, you should declare this to the University as soon as this is confirmed. Given the amount of time expected for campaigning, candidates should also speak to their line manager about taking annual leave.
Guidance and links
- Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014
- Electoral Commission guidance
- Charity Commission guidelines relating to elections
- University of Sussex Freedom of Speech compliance policies
- Gov.uk voter registration guidance
- Local area voter registration guidance
For further information, please contact the Communications, Marketing and Advancement division:
- Lenny Rolles (Associate Director of Public Affairs) – email@example.com
- Jonathan Street (Associate Director of Communications) – firstname.lastname@example.org