This week, the NUS National Conference 2014 meets in Liverpool, where hundreds of delegates from universities across the UK discuss and vote on official NUS policy for the year ahead, as well as choosing a new president and senior officials.
Day one of the conference saw the following motions pass:
â— Motion in favour of a campaigning partnership with the Trades Union Congress
â— Motion opposing all fees associated with exam resits
â— Motion in favour of setting up of a legal fund to support arrested student protesters
â— Motion opposing UKIP
â— Motion opposing the privatisation of student loans
â— Motion supporting a 5:1 pay ratio for all university staff, whereby the highest-paid employees could not be given a salary more than five times higher than that of the lowest-paid employees.
There was controversy over a proposal for a national demonstration, with critics pointing out the lack of clarity over the aims of such a protest. A delegate from Liverpool said, “I love a demo, but the proposers of this amendment don’t care what this demo is for. It’s a demo for demo’s sake.” The motion failed by 285 votes to 341.
There was further debate over the #copsoffcampus campaign, which advocates a system similar to that in other countries, whereby police require the permission of both student unions and university management before they can enter a university campus. Daniel Cooper, vice president of the University of London Union, said, “In many countries it’s taken for granted that police do not walk onto campus whenever they like. NUS should campaign for laws that police cannot come onto campus without permission. In the last year in the majority of cases police have not acted in students’ interest, they have made students’ life more difficult.”
Others questioned the practicality of the motion. “Police can’t have to go through the student union every time they want to go on campus, what about victims of harassment who don’t want to go through the student unions?” one delegate said.
The motion to oppose UKIP attracted further controversy. Daniel Cooper, speaking in favour of the motion, said, “We should be alarmed by the rise of UKIP, a party that represents the worst of UK society, racism, xenophobia and a narrow minded approach that could cut us off from Europe. UKIP voters are looking for answers, but UKIP have no answers. Immigration is not the cause of job losses and lower wages. Business and politicians are. Let us tell UKIP that their politics are not welcome in our movement.”
Members of the party have objected to the decision. Jack Duffin, chairman of UKIP’s youth wing, Youth Independence, and one of the four NUS presidential candidates, said, “I am very disappointed that NUS has voted to oppose UKIP on a national level at its conference.
“This will alienate many students who are involved in UKIP but also people who hold a different view to the handful of students at NUS Conference.
“This shows their disregard for democracy and disdain for alternative, mainstream political views. We as a movement do not believe NUS should not be marginalising thousands of students and societies across their campuses. This is bizarre, pathetic posturing once again demonstrates how the NUS lacks focus on the issue that students really care about: education.”
Among the OUSU delegates were OUSU President Tom Rutland, President-elect Louis Trup and Nathan Akehurst, who headed the “Reclaim OUSU” presidential campaign in 2013. Akehurst is a candidate for the NUS Block of 15, a group of 15 individually elected officials. His manifesto promises, “A democratic, campaigning and transparent national union that integrates liberation with all its work”.
OUSU will be holding an all-student referendum in the fourth week of Trinity Term, where they will ask students to vote on their affiliation with the NUS. What happens with this conference will undoubtedly be taken into consideration by students deciding which way to vote.