NUS National Conference Staff Report
The National Union of Students represents over 7 million students across the United Kingdom, through history they have achieved large wins in the Education sector and through various liberation campaigns. However due to recent financial hardship they now find themselves in a very different situation. Over 3 million pounds in deficit, NUS had to quickly change in order to survive, they have sold various assets including their headquarters in London, alongside reducing their staff number by half. As such, a proposal for change will be discussed at National Conference which will affect the future of NUS, potentially giving NUS new life, or condemning it to bankruptcy.
The first day of The National Conference was predominantly filled by the elections of the NUS Full-Time Officers, just like our Sabbaticals at the CU Group, NUS elect a team to lead them for the upcoming year.
Firstly, there was a presentation of the Zone reports for the year, the zones work in different areas to improve the lives of students. These zones are Priority (The President’s Manifesto), Further Education, Higher Education, Union Development, Society and Citizenship and Welfare. These reports presented by the associated full-time officers detailed their work for the past year. Conference were then able to ask questions to the officers and voted whether to accept or decline the reports. All the officer reports were passed with varying degrees of questions and support.
As earlier mentioned, the elections provided the focus for the day. Starting with the National President, each candidate was allowed 3 minutes to speak about why they should be elected. There were 6 candidates running for this position including Re-Open Nominations. Conference voted that the current VP for Society and Citizenship, Zamzam Ibrahim, should be elected as the NUS National President for 2019/20.
Next up was the VP Further Education role, that looks after FE Colleges and Apprentices throughout the UK. There were 4 candidates for this election including Re-Open Nominations. Conference voted that Juliana Noor, current President of Liverpool College SU, should be elected as VP FE for 2019/20.
For VP Higher Education, there were 4 candidates including Re-Open Nominations. Conference voted that Claire Sosienski Smith, full-time Womens’ Officer at Cambridge University Students’ Union, should be elected as VP HE for 2019/20.
VP Welfare had 5 candidates running for position, including Re-Open Nominations. Conference voted that Eva Crossan Jory, the current VP Welfare for NUS should be re-elected as VP Welfare for 2019/20.
Finally, VP Union Development, this role is responsible for Sport, Societies and Student Groups alongside working with SU’s to coach and improve them. For this role there were 4 candidates, including Re-Open Nominations. Conference voted that Erica Ramos, current Vice President Business and Law at Middlesex University Students’ Union, should be elected as VP Union Development for 2019/20.
The last item of the day were the estimates and accounts, quite a hotly debated area considering the financial difficulty of NUS’ current situation. The most notable revisions to the initial proposal were that funds were removed from the Postgraduate Students campaign and the General Election budget to fund the liberation campaigns, an area which had been controversially cut.
This was the day where the NUS Conference had a chance to alter the turnaround process and ultimately affect if the NUS can pull through their crisis.
The Turnaround Proposals would completely rework the NUS works, they strip back several of the services and activities they run whilst putting more focus on a simple structure that they can rebuild from, you can see the full NUS Turnaround documents online. However, the turnaround is quite controversial in the student movement as it cuts the liberation activities of NUS, which is one of the more active groups and has caused a lot of unrest. As such, several revisions have been submitted to the turnaround documents.
This was the main debate of the day with 4 hours being allocated to 16 amendments! These amendments ranged from increasing the maximum numbers of Full-Time Officers to reinstating the national executive committee to how the Board functions. Once the session concluded it was clear that conference was in favour of reinstating the liberation officers as soon as funds became available, alongside forming a new body for scrutiny. They also opted to keep the gender balanced approach to conference delegations. Again, a full list of amendments can be found online.
The turnaround document eventually was approved and passed however it is yet to be seen how the amendments effect the changes in NUS and whether they help or hinder the entire turnaround process.
The day was concluded with policy discussions for the Welfare and Education Zones, CUSU had submitted 1 motion to Welfare Zone titled “Mental Health Charter” and 2 motions to Higher Education Zone titled “International Student Fee Cap” and “Quality of Education”. First up was Mental Health Charter and Nicole Desouza (VP Welfare and Community) introduced the motion and Toch Ajare (President) spoke in favour also. The motion commits NUS to lobby universities to increase spending on mental health services, either in line with total student number or proportionately to total turnover, fortunately the motion was passed!
There was just time for our motion on International Student Fee cap to be discussed, this time the motion proposes that NUS campaign for a cap to international student fees proportionate to current home student fees. This time Toch proposed the motion and Dora Miketek spoke in favour also, again this motion proved very popular and passed comfortably.
The final day of conference was started by the adoption of policies that had been discussed in the different liberation zones. This was followed by the reports from the zones also. The majority of the day was taken up by the discussion of policy again, in Education, Society and Citizenship and Union Development Zones. Our policy on Quality of Education was discussed, this time Ade Adebanjo (VP Education) proposed the motion and Lewis Goode spoke in favour, unfortunately this motion fell as most of the conference thought that it conflicted with the overall movement towards free education. The rest of the day passed without any issues, featuring the election of the block of 15, democratic procedures committee and Student Director.
Special mention to Bradley Langer (our current Student Safety Officer) who is a member of NUS’ democratic procedures committee (DPC). DPC ensures conference runs smoothly and as fairly as possible, not an easy job! Bradley and his team did fantastically, as a result conference ran very smoothly, no stage occupations this time!