OUSU Council have considered a motion stating that OUSU “believes that Britain should remain a member state of the European Union”.
The motion also proposed mandating OUSU officers to raise awareness of the proposed EU membership referendum, currently scheduled for 2017. Its result can be found on The Oxford Student’s website.
This motion would make it OUSU policy to state “that students benefit enormously from the funding for academic research provided by the European Union” and “that the University benefits enormously from the easy presence of students from other member states of the European Union at Oxford.”
The referendum would also mandate the VP for Charities and Community to engage in a public-awareness campaign, similar to the one undertaken by OUSU to make students aware of the need to register to vote in the run-up to the 2015 General Election.
The motion was proposed by James Blythe, OUSU VP for Academic Affairs. In a statement to The Oxford Student, he said: “During my year in office I have sat on several department reviews and budget-setting committees in the University.
“I am acutely aware of the impact on the academic mission of the University that the United Kingdom leaving the European Union would have, and I wanted to bring this to students’ attention, which is why I proposed the motion.”
However, not all students were enthralled with the motion. Jan Nedvidek, Christ Church PPEist and OUCA President-Elect, said: “‘If people want to discuss Britain’s relationship with the EU, that’s great. But I think they should come to Port and Policy rather than OUSU Council: OUSU is meant to represent the wide student body with our diverse political opinions, not push forward one particular agenda. The position of the UK in the EU is not a topic for OUSU.”
“‘Being from the Czech Republic,” Nedvidek continued, “I have myself benefited hugely from Britain’s membership of the EU. However, I’m very much aware that different people in this country have had a different experience, and perhaps they feel that the huge number of regulations, directives and by-laws the EU keeps tying British businesses with is not really worth it.”
If Britain were to leave the EU, European students would no longer be guaranteed access to the £9000 level of tuition fees, instead being subject to standard international fees, which typically fall into the £15000 to £20000 range. The British economy as well as business regulation would also be affected by the change.
European funding for Oxford research would also be at risk. According to the University’s 2013/2014 financial statement, Oxford received over £53m in research grants and contracts from the European Commission and other EU government bodies.
OUSU has taken up a number of political stances in recent years. Among these are support for free education demonstrations, condemning Marine Le Pen’s Union visit. In 2013, a motion to boycott Israel failed in OUSU council.
OUSU Council meets four times a term to consider motions for funding and student union stances, as well as being the site of many elections for non-executive officers. Each college which is affiliated to OUSU is represented by officers of its JCR committee.