The Oxford student body has voted to remain affiliated with the National Union of Students after a referendum over the past three days. With a turnout of 1409 (5% of the student body) a majority of 791 (56%) voted to remain affiliated with 589 (42%) wanting to disaffiliate. The remaining 2% abstained, and the result is binding on the SU since quorum was met.
This means that the SU will remain affiliated with NUS, the second time that the Oxford student body has voted to remain affiliated after a previous referendum in 2016.
The referendum asked students the question “Oxford SU is currently affiliated to the National Union of Students. Should it continue to be affiliated: yes or no?”. The referendum was held after a motion to hold such a referendum was proposed by Ciaron Tobin and seconded by Mundher Ba Shammakh in Student Council. Both proposer and seconder were former NUS delegates, and, in their motion, they noted that they had seen the value of NUS over the last year.
The vote was held from 8am on Monday 27th February to 6pm on Wednesday 1st March and has been conducted by Returning Officer Joe Bell
As part of the referendum procedure, two Official Campaigns were established, with one group campaigning for a positive response and the other a negative. The successful Vote Yes to NUS campaign was led by Anas Dayeh, which put out a campaign statement saying, “NUS is a powerful voice for students across the UK, representing more than 7 million students from over 400 institutions.” However, they also acknowledged that, “The NUS is not perfect, and it has its challenges and limitations.”
The Say No to NUS campaign was led by Ciaron Tobin and Caleb van Ryneveld, who argued that the NUS is, “An institution in crisis”. They said “the NUS cannot act as an advocate for Oxford Students in the national discourse.”
The last time such a referendum was held was 2016, which drew a turnout of 27.7%. The referendum was held after accusations of antisemitism were made against the then newly elected NUS President Malia Bouattia. In that referendum, 57.1% of votes backed affiliation, with 3409 votes cast in favour of remaining in NUS, while 2430 voted to disaffiliate.
This referendum was held in light of the damning report into antisemitism within NUS that was published last month. The report, commissioned by the NUS in May 2022, was conducted by Rebecca Tuck KC and laid out numerous incidents of antisemitism within the NUS. The report states that Jewish students were “subjected to harassment” and set out recommendations for the future.
Multiple incidents were referenced, including the failure to include Judaism on an official form in 2018 when all other faiths were listed and using a prayer room for political meetings. Other issues cited in the report were the election of candidates with a history of making antisemitic comments and a motion to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in 2016 receiving opposition speakers.
The report cited testimony given to the Union of Jewish Students after the 2021 NUS Liberation Conference by a delegate, whose experience at the conference left them “personally shaking and almost in tears”. The NUS reportedly viewed some complaints as being made in “bad faith to try and avert pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel policy advocacy”.