The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Debate: should the Students’ Union remain affiliated with NUS?

In the wake of a failed disaffiliation bid, we debate the question.

By and

YES:

Being the largest higher-education Student Union in the country, voting to disassociate ourselves from the NUS would be a considerable setback for the aims, such as improving access to higher education, improving conditions for disabled people, combating homophobia and racism, that the NUS is fighting for. Consider the following reasons why we should not let this happen.
The membership saves the union a considerable amount of money, allowing more to be spent on worthwhile projects such as Pangaea or Nightline.
The student union currently pays £52,000 to NUS for affiliation. While this may seem like a large amount, the union currently estimates the savings it makes from membership to be £120,000, approximately the size of the student activities budget. These savings come as a result of the NUS’ ability to negotiate discounts for its members on the items we students regularly buy, such as alcohol in the union bar. Without membership with the NUS we will be left attempting to negotiate representing a consumer base of less than 40,000 students, small in comparison to the 7 million students the NUS represents.

Durham University’s Students Union recently published an impartial cost/benefit analysis of its affiliation to NUS, which highlighted the financial difficulties that would arise as a result of disaffiliation, including loss of bar sales’ margins, increases in staff hours, and loss of discounts from NUS suppliers for bar and shop equipment. It is clear that, if we disassociate, our negotiating ability will be significantly weakened, resulting in both less money for the Student Union budget and higher prices for the student.

Having membership with the NUS gives the university a voice at national level to influence the issues that students really care about.

I do not believe the NUS is perfect, not do I reject the notion that improvements could be made. It is quite clear however that choosing to disassociate from the NUS over these relatively minor issues will render the university completely unable to negotiate savings for the SU, without a voice at national level and therefore unable to influence the issues which matter to students. In this age of increased tuition fees and abolished EMA, now is the time to remain united with the vast majority of students across the country and work together through the NUS towards the improvement of conditions for both the current and next generation of students.

 

NO:

We should end our association with the NUS

Undemocratic, unrepresentative, and a waste of money; the opinion of many students on the very body that is meant to speak for us on a national level, the NUS. Sadly, these criticisms are not unfounded. The organisation is not acting in the best interest of students; and it’s time we did something about it.

The NUS in its current form isn’t representing students. Currently delegates are elected from each university to attend NUS conference, where policy decisions are made for the next year. Members of SUs can vote for these delegates, and in theory they represent us to the NUS as a whole. The problem is, do you actually have any idea who your NUS delegates are or what they stand for? Do you remember voting for them even? Their barely mandated officers push policies like their “no platform for fascists” on universities. This leads to backlashes such as that seen recently from Leeds Student newspaper, showing that these policies are clearly unpopular with students.

If we left the NUS, our own Sabbatical Officers, who we elect directly, could become our voice on a national scale. Paul Beaumont, the president of Imperial College SU, (who’ve been disaffiliated since 2008) thinks this is a much more powerful way for students to get their voices heard “We feel that, rather than being a ‘one line mention’ in an NUS response, a whole response dedicated to the views of just our students allows us to represent them much more effectively and ‘loudly’.”

Paul says it is fully possible for the union to survive without the funding and subsidies. He stated “the most recent Aldwych conference [a meeting between student union members of Russell Group Universities] was held at Imperial and your Education Officer, Luke noted that our bar prices are the same as yours – even outside of the NUS bulk buying scheme!”. So, Imperial’s drink prices are just as low as ours, without the NUSSL. Imperial has just 13,000 students, Manchester University has almost 40,000. That’s much more buying power. So if Imperial can do it, why can’t we? We could even team up with other disaffiliated Students’ Unions such as Imperial and start our own bulk buying scheme.

Look beyond the 10% Topshop discount; the NUS is unrepresentative, and many of its so called benefits could easily be achieved without it. NUS membership cost our union £52,848.70 this academic year, but it simply isn’t worth the price tag. The decision is simple: we should disaffiliate from the NUS.