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EACEA National Policies Platform


5. Participation

5.3 Youth representation bodies

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 10/11/2020 - 23:53

On this page
  1. Youth parliament
  2. Youth councils and/or youth advisory boards
  3. Higher education student union(s)
  4. School student union(s)
  5. Other bodies

Youth parliament

British Youth Council (BYC) is an umbrella organisation, consisting of a variety of national and local youth organisations. Its mission is to empower young people to become involved in politics and contribute to decision-making regarding youth-related policies. BYC provide opportunities for young people (25 and under) to inform and influence policies that affect them locally, nationally and internationally.

The UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) was launched at the House of Commons in July 1999. It is a UK-wide initiative run by the BYC. Any young person aged 11 to 18 can stand for election. Each local authority (LA) across England represents a UKYP constituency. Each constituency has a minimum of one Member of the Youth Parliament (MYP) elected as a representative to UKYP. The numbers of MYPs in each constituency depend upon the numbers of young people in that area, e.g. Warwickshire has four MYPs, whilst Southampton has only one. There are over 364 elected MYPs. An MYP must stand down on his/her 19th birthday. The term of office is one year. All MYPs meet once a year at the UK Youth Parliament Annual Sitting.

UKYP aims to give young people a voice, which will be heard and listened to by local, regional and national government, providers of services for young people and other agencies who have an interest in the views and needs of young people.  As well as the Annual Sitting, there is a Sitting in the House of Commons, regional meetings, dialogue with Ministers and Opposition spokespeople and inputs to policy and programme development. There is a rolling programme of activities, events, campaigns and projects across the year. 

The annual debate in the House of Commons chamber is chaired by the Speaker of the House of Commons. MYPs debate five issues chosen by a ‘Make Your Mark’ ballot of young people from across the UK, and then vote to decide which two issues should become their priority campaigns for the year ahead (one UK-wide and the other a priority campaign for England). The last session of the Youth Parliament, on the 8th November 2019

Climate change was declared the top concern with over 800,000 people voting for this issue via the Make Your Mark ballot. You can read about the other issues covered and watch the sessions here. The next session will be held in November 2020. 

As Members of the Youth Parliament are elected from local authority areas, they also receive support and funding from local authorities’ budgets.

Youth councils and/or youth advisory boards

There are a variety of structures representing young people at a local level. Local authorities are encouraged to operate youth voice vehicles, which allow young people to have their say on issues. Many local authorities do have such bodies, and these can include shadow youth councils, young mayors, young inspectors and young citizens panels. It is up to the local authority to decide what structures to put in place.

These bodies can be run on either a contracted out basis or by local authorities themselves.

Around the beginning of each year, many local authority youth voice vehicles run local elections, in which young people are voted into positions as representatives of the youth population in that area.

Additionally, BYC coordinates the Local Youth Council Network, which consists of over 620 youth councils. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to, representing young people's views to decision makers, campaigning, sitting on local scrutiny panels, and running the Youth Opportunity Fund.


Higher education student union(s)

The National Union of Students (NUS) is a voluntary membership organisation. It is a confederation of around 600 students' unions, amounting to more than 95 per cent of all higher and further education unions in the UK. Through the member students' unions, which are constituted under the Education Act 1994, it represents the interests of more than seven million students.

NUS UK is governed by a combination of National Conference, the National Executive Council and the NUS UK Board with a leadership network made up of elected representatives, appointed trustees and permanent staff.

National Conference is the head policy making body of NUS UK. Delegates are elected from each local students’ union that is an affiliated member of NUS to represent students’ views on a National level.

The National Executive Council is the interim policy making body between meetings of the National Conference for issues which need addressing. It is also the main scrutiny and accountability body for NUS officers and work carried out under the policy zones (see below).

The NUS UK Board is responsible for the management and administration of NUS UK. It provides direction for the long term plans of the organisation. 

The National President is the national voice of students and is the chair of the three bodies above.

The activities of the NUS cover five policy zones:

  • further education
  • higher education
  • society and citizenship
  • union development
  • welfare.

The role of each zone is to lead a portfolio of work, enable in-depth and wide ranging research and discussion on issues important to students, and deliver campaigns and work programmes relevant to that area. Each zone is led by a vice president elected at the NUS National Conference and a committee elected at the Zone Conference held in late October.

In addition to policy zones there are four liberation campaigns that exist autonomously within NUS: 

  • Black Students
  • Disabled Students
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans students (LGBT+)
  • Women

These liberation campaigns host their own annual conference and determine their own policy.

Students’ unions are usually funded in one, or a combination, of the following ways:

  • per capita union fees – an amount paid per student, which may come from the college or university
  • block grant - a lump sum, usually paid in termly instalments, generally paid by the college or university itself.

The NUS itself is funded through the fees paid by the member students’ unions to affiliate themselves.


School student union(s)

There is no top-level body representing secondary school students. Whilst the Government has powers to prescribe regulations for school councils, it has so far preferred encouragement to prescription and it is up to individual schools to decide how to involve students in the life of the school. School Councils, representative groups of students who have been proposed and elected by their peers to represent their views and raise issues with the leadership and governors of the school are common, but not formally organised into networks.

See 'Non-formal and informal learning' for further information.


Other bodies

The British Youth Council works to empower young people and promote their interests at a local, national, European and international level; and to promote the increased participation of young people in society and public life (see ‘Actors’ in the article ‘Young People’s Participation in Policy-Making’ and above). In 2016, the UK Government confirmed continued funding until 2020 in support of BYC’s ‘Youth Voice’ programme, which includes the UK Youth Parliament (see ‘Youth parliament). For more information, visit the Youth Voice webpage.

The Youth Voice Leadership Development Programme, a BYC flagship event, brings youth representatives from across the UK together for training courses to help develop their leadership skills, that will support them become successful representatives for their peers and community.

The Youth Select Committee (YSC) is a British Youth Council initiative, supported by the House of Commons. There are eleven committee members, aged 15-18, and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors and representatives from each of the devolved nations. The YSC receives induction training and mentoring from parliamentary Clerks and British Youth Council staff.