The Conversation: Vote YES to NUS re-affiliation

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Representation and activism is how you improve students’ lives, whether at a college, university or national level. Oxford students come together in their common rooms to win low rent rises and proper welfare provision within their college. We work together as OUSU to win the right to resit Prelims and ensure that you don’t lose access to the counselling service and libraries if you have to drop out for a year. We fight with students across the country to successfully oppose cuts to vital access funds. If we didn’t work together, we’d be far worse off than we are right now.

Just this year, NUS lobbying has saved hundreds of millions of pounds of undergraduate access funds from cuts (the Student Opportunity Fund and the National Scholarship Programme). They’ve secured £45m of funding for a postgraduate student support scheme. And they’ve stopped the practice of universities being able to prevent you from graduating if you’ve got a £2 library fine leftover from your time here. There are more struggles ahead though: the government is planning to cut the Disabled Students’ Allowance, a lifeline for disabled students that has been shown to improve degree outcomes. We’ve got to be a part of these campaigns to make sure all students – including those here in Oxford – have the opportunity to thrive at university.

Liberation for LGBT, black, disabled and women students is at the heart of NUS’ work. Whether it’s championing women in leadership, setting the bar on mental health provision, making sport more welcoming to LGBT students, or fighting racism in universities, NUS has excelled in supporting those in our student body who face the most oppression in society. The support and resources provided by the national union strengthen our local campaigns, and provide nationwide networks to reach out to for assistance when it’s needed.

They’re doing great work with international students too – aiming to stop fee rises whilst on course, and lobbying against the worst parts of the new Immigration Bill – including the introduction of a £150 charge to use the NHS. Oxford played a big part in this national campaign – contacting over 150 Lords!

Don’t be fooled by the numbers the NO campaign are using about cost – £25k is misleading figure. NUS Extra Card sales make us back just under £12k, a number that is growing by thousands of pounds each year. We also received two grants this year of £1000 to run Student Led Teaching Awards and to do green work with the University – reducing the net cost of our affiliation to just over £10k. When you consider the achievements of the NUS in the last year, the support and training they provide to ensure your sabbatical officers are equipped to do the best job they can, and the money individual students save through their NUS Extra Cards, it’s clearly money well spent.

Over 2200 Oxford students currently take advantage of the NUS Extra Card, granting them a massive array of discounts they wouldn’t otherwise be able to enjoy – whether it’s online shopping, 10% off all food and drink at the Co-op, or the free cheeseburger at McDonalds, OUSU’s affiliation to NUS puts money back in the pocket of individual students. What’s more, you’re now able to have an NUS Extra Card for the first year after you graduate – meaning whether you’re taking a break between university and work, or moving into your first job, you can still save a ton of money by holding on to your discount for another year.

Disaffiliating from NUS would cost Oxford students money, isolate us from the national student movement, and weaken both unions. We have a national movement of students making national decisions affecting us. Sure, we might not agree with every decision made at NUS Conference – but that’s democracy for you. I don’t agree with every motion passed in my JCR, but that doesn’t make me believe in the institution any less.

Oxford students have a right to be involved and have their voice heard in elections and policy decisions. My year as OUSU President has shown me the value of NUS – and when Louis Trup and I agree, hopefully we’re onto something good.

Vote YES to NUS.

Read the argument for disaffiliating with the NUS here.

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PHOTO/ National Union of Students