Tuesday 05-07-2016 - 12:47
Students’ Unions 2016 - our flagship event for officers and staff – got underway this morning with over 800 delegates arriving at Liverpool’s ACC for two days of discussions, workshops, keynotes and not least, networking.
The event, now in its fifth year, begun with a welcome from local sabbatical officers from Liverpool Hope Students’ Union.
Their President Kira Cox, firstly highlighted the host city’s link to this year’s overarching theme of ‘championing equality and building inclusive students’ unions’, declaring: “Liverpool is a city which embodies inclusion and diversity.”
Kira added: “The support this event gives us is invaluable. Last year was the first national event our union attended. By being here you’re throwing yourself into a movement working to support everyone.”
We then heard from Kira’s fellow officers Ayo Akinrele and Pranay Raj Shakya before Richard Brooks, NUS Vice President (Union Development) took to the stage to give his opening remarks.
Richard earmarked an opportunity to “reflect on students’ unions - where we’ve come
from, our unique place in society and what we can learn about that for the future.”
Richard went on to cite networking opportunities for those new to the movement in attendance: “Over the next few days we will discuss what we’re all working on, how we can support each other, and the role your national union plays within that”, adding: “While it is absolutely central to what students’ unions are about, collectivism is an increasingly alien concept in society. We can and must lead the fight to protect collectivism.”
The attendees next heard from their newly elected NUS National President, Malia Bouattia.
Making her maiden address to the membership, Malia said: “For as long as I’ve been involved in this movement, I have held education in the highest of esteem. My parents instilled in me and my sisters the value of education and we’ve never forgotten the price my family had to pay in pursuit of it. These are the uncompromising principles that have guided me throughout my life, throughout my studies and throughout my campaigns for fairer, more accessible education for all.
“As a movement we face important challenges - the way we respond to them will shape our education system for years to come. Whether you are in Higher or Further Education, you will know that there are dangerous reforms looming over us right now.”
Malia also used her speech to the membership to announce that a National Demonstration against the attacks to education (as voted for by National Conference 2016), will take place on Saturday 12 November, and that NUS will be joined by members of the University and College Union (UCU).
Malia acknowledged the uncertainty facing students’ unions following Brexit, stating that “it is crucial that today’s theme is equality and diversity”, before concluding that we can be positive in our response: “We are countering the cold grey world of exclusion and privatisation with the colour and life of a movement which knows the importance of an education that remains open for all, at any point in their life, to reflect, debate, and learn - every day.”
To close the morning session, NUS’ Chief Executive Simon Blake also greeted delegates to Liverpool, and used his speech to launch NUS100 - our new strategic framework. Simon focussed on the need for our movement to take a collaborative approach: "We are all here with a common cause. If we are going to truly suceed, the onus is truly on us to work together and wintogether."
Later today delegates will hear from our keynote speaker Phyll Opoku-Gyimah – founder of UK Black Pride - and participate in a plethora of workshops and networking sessions.
Not in Liverpool for Students’ Unions 2016? You can follow all of the action on social media using the hashtag #SU16.