Over 35,000 students at the University of Manchester did not vote in the recently held National Union of Students (NUS) delegate elections.
1,617 votes were cast during the NUS delegate elections, equating to a total turnout of around 4.3 per cent of the 37,000 students at the University eligible to vote, which took place simultaneously alongside the Students’ Union (SU) part-time officer elections.
NUS delegates will represent the University of Manchester Students’ Union, the UK’s largest Students’ Union, at the 2017-2018 NUS conferences, setting the NUS’ agenda for the coming year, debating policies, and voting for the NUS’ national president, vice-presidents, and officers.
Felix-Hanif Banks, a first-year University of Manchester History student who did note vote in the elections, said: “I think the NUS generally focus on using their union as a political platform not necessarily linked to student issues, and then the union loses sight of making positive change for actual students in the country.”
“People aren’t aware of the Union because they don’t see any tangible benefits to it. It doesn’t do anything for them they feel is necessary or present in their day-to-day student lives, so they’re less likely to interact with it.”
Second-year Mechanical Engineering student, Max Salatta-Barnett, told The Mancunion that “the NUS will always have issue engaging students because we’re only here for 3 years, so anything you want to happen wouldn’t get implemented until we’ve left.”
Explaining why he didn’t vote, Max said: “I heard very little about it. Being in North Campus, I haven’t even seen a poster, yet alone got details about it. The only place I’d be able to get info about it would be online.”
University of Manchester student Toby Zambardino told The Mancunion that “having such a small fraction of students responding to these votes shows that students are still fairly unengaged in SU politics on the whole.”
Despite this, Toby Zambardino said: “If the student body are passionate enough about issues, I’d like to think I have reasonable faith that delegates will respond and properly represent them.”
The third-year Politics and Philosophy student said he did not vote in the elections because he thought that “the vote wasn’t publicised as an urgent or even important issue to students.”
Echoing this idea, Victoria Gosling, a first-year Politics and International Relations student who also did not vote in the elections, said that she “didn’t know anything about it or that we even had an NUS delegate.”
Emma Atkins, Students’ Union Education Officer, said the NUS delegate elections had “a really good turnout”, commenting that “more people ran for NUS delegate positions than last year, which I think shows that as a SU we have political students who want to get involved in national issues, which is great.”
Emma added: “I think it is a rare student who is engaged with NUS politics, but I think that’s totally OK. I don’t think students need to know every single thing about the NUS, they just need to know that the SU and the NUS will be there for them if they need them (i.e. they get the NUS card for discounts, use the SU advice service). I think there is a misconception that if students aren’t hyper engaged with everything then it’s a bad thing. As long as they know they are being supported behind the scenes, that’s the most important thing.”
Described by the General Secretary of the Students’ Union, Alex Tayler, as “very successful”, the elections took place alongside the Students’ Union ‘All Student Vote‘ on the composition of the SU Executive Officer team for the academic year 2018/2018, which had a turn out of 1.3 per cent.