NUS Referendum: The NUS is failing students

In 6th week, OUSU is holding a referendum on our affiliation to the NUS. It was a tough fight to get this referendum, and it is a vital chance for Oxford students to demand proper representation and support by voting NO to the NUS.

Of course the NUS does some good things, but overall it’s really failing students. And that’s why I don’t like it – not because I’m against student unions, but because I want to see students well represented and the issues they face properly tackled. It makes me angry when the NUS lets us down by failing to do either.

For a start, the indirect election system means it’s not remotely representative. Leadership positions are all elected at a conference, populated by cliquey insiders who often don’t seem to even care what most students might think. Last conference, one NEC member actually made fun of the idea the NUS should try to represent all students, which gives some idea of how bad things have got. With such an unrepresentative system and attitudes like these, should we really be surprised they had no qualms in electing a President condemned by 57 university Jewish societies?

Perhaps more importantly, it also does a very poor job in supporting SU’s and dealing with issues students face. Back when Megan Dunn, the previous president, was elected, she said that the NUS needed to ‘get off our soapboxes and do the work’. This is exactly right – but also what they always fail to do.

A perfect example is what happened to Anne Cremin’s mental health motion. She supported a clear and to the point motion with concrete steps to help students’ unions better addresses the mental health crisis on campus. The NUS compositing procedure then merged it with other motions to produce something that consisted primarily of posturing and a condemnation of Tory cuts. This is exactly how the NUS seems to go about dealing with any issue – grandly pronounce a view, condemn the government, and possibly organize a demo – and it completely lets down those people who need proper support.

Unfortunately, there is no chance of changing this from within. People have been talking about doing so for years, but it just never happens. The NUS are actually so closed off to reform that several newly elected sabbatical officers turned up half an hour late to the session in which we were to debate motions to introduce One Member One Vote and to make conference more accessible.

The only way to get any serious change, and to eventually win an organization that actually does a good job representing and helping students, is to join many other universities around the country (such as most recently Lincoln, Hull, and Newcastle) in making clear our dissatisfaction by disaffiliating.

And in the meantime, that would allow is to be directly represented by OUSU (who the government may actually take seriously, unlike the NUS) and to use the £19,000 net we’d save on student welfare here.

We won’t be weaker without the NUS. Southampton, St Andrews, and Imperial all disaffiliated years ago and have never looked back. Let’s say no to an organisation that is not representative, not reformable, and not delivering for us.

Image: NUS