Oxford students have voted to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students.
The ‘No’ campaign, headed by NUS delegate and former OUCA President Jack Matthews, prevailed in this week’s affiliation referendum with 1780 votes to 1652 votes in favour of remaining affiliated.
The elections had a 15% turnout and a 0.9% abstention rate.
‘No’ campaign leader Jack J Matthews told Cherwell, “I’m really pleased about the result. We’ve sent a really strong message to the NUS this week that there is the need for some real change in the NUS, and I really do hope they listen to us, deliver that change, speak to us, and hopefully one day we will have an NUS that Oxford will be more than happy to join once again.”
Commenting on the turnout, he continued, “I am absolutely astounded, really really pleased that Oxford students engaged with this referendum, because if we look back the turnout for this referendum rivals turnouts even for vice-Presidential elections, so I’m really pleased that we got a high turnout. Both campaigns worked really hard to turn out the vote, so I am grateful to everyone, no matter what side they are on, for being part of this process.”
Tom Rutland, OUSU President and leader of the ‘Yes’ campaign told Cherwell, ”I’m obviously disappointed with the result, having campaigned for OUSU to stay in the NUS. My year as President has shown me the benefits of NUS membersip, and that it can be a real lifeline to me and the other officers, but also to Oxford students in general. I think the result is a shame, there’s some really great students campaigns still going, that this will be a brief uncoupling, and that next year we will be reaffiliated to the NUS.”
OUSU President-elect, Louis Trup, commented, “The voice of students is my priority. A majority of the student voice wanted us to disaffiliate. It may give a lot of people, especially those working in campaigns, a harder job, however, I reckon OUSU is up to the challenge. The people you have elected to serve in OUSU will still work hard for every Oxford student and we as a student body will have to step up and prove that we can have a voice at a national level. If we want to give the NUS a wakeup call, we need to show them how great we can be without them. Get involved next year to make sure this happens.”
The Sabbatical team-elect commented, “We as a sabbatical team were supporting the YES2NUS campaign, but we also passionately believe in and love Oxford. We remain completely committed to serving Oxford students to the best of our abilities. #Yes2Oxford.”
Eleanor Sharman, of the No campaign, commented, “We are delighted with the result, and I am so proud of Oxford for standing up and making itself heard. The ‘Yes’ campaign worked incredibly hard and the close result is testament to its passion and commitment. I look forward to Oxford’s development next year.”
Nathan Akehurst, who ran for OUSU presidency earlier this year told Cherwell, “I think this sends bad signals to the outside world. It’s a classic case of Oxbridge arrogance. I think Oxford will lose a lot from not being part of a national student movement. However, we’ve got to accept that this is what students wanted, there was an incredibly high turnout, and the close result is something to be proud of. It shows that both campaigns tried incredibly hard to engage students in a way that you don’t always see in student politics.”
Joe Miles, also from the ‘No’ campaign told Cherwell that the NUS had “massive problems with democracy” commenting, “I am extremely happy that we are no longer part of an institution that has shown time and time again that it is not interested in listening to us and shows no signs of doing so in the future. I thought voter apathy would lead to a Yes vote so I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Returning Officer Alex Walker told Cherwell after the results were announced, “In my report I’ll be quite damning of them. People were breaking the rules left right and centre and there was nothing I could do about it”.
OUSU Council decided to call a all-student referendum in Hilary Term, after the defeat of a motion to hold a Special Council, to which JCRs would have sent delegates to vote on their behalf. Proponents of a Special Council had argued that given historically-low OUSU referendum turnouts, it would have been more democratic for the debate to take place in common rooms. However, OUSU Council decided that because opting for a Special Council would exclude members of disaffiliated JCRs from voting, holding an all-student referendum was the preferable option.