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Malia Bouattia opens National Conference 2017

Tuesday 25-04-2017 - 15:58

NUS’ National President reminds delegates that “this stage and this conference room belongs to them” as she makes her welcome speech at National Conference.

Malia Bouattia formally opened NUS National Conference by welcoming everyone to the “great city of Brighton” for the next few days.

In her opening remarks, Malia cited the city of Brighton’s reputation of “housing some of our most diverse and radical universities, schools and colleges; where students have long stood against injustice at every turn.”

She acknowledged it’s diversity – from being the unofficial LGBT+ capital and home to the highest population of self-identifying Jedi knights – through to it’s “consistent mobilisation against far-right marches spreading hate and division time after time”.

She concluded by urging delegates to “absorb everything you can from this week and take it back out there, don’t let conversations and passions end in this room.”

“In 2010 it was this government which trebled tuition fees, the same year they scrapped the further education lifeline that was Education Maintenance Allowance in England.

Since then they’ve decimated the benefit system so many of us rely upon, cut the Disabled Students Allowance, left desperate refugees and migrants to drown cold and frightened in the sea.

We’ve seen attacks on the rights of unions to campaign and to organise, seen college funding callously cut, Women’s refuges forced to close all across the UK.

We’re told under 25s should not have the living wage, that we’ve no right to housing benefit or even legal aid. Decisions made by a cabinet filled with politicians who stoked the flames of the current xenophobic climate, who refused to support LGBT+ equality, and now walk hand in hand with the racist Donald Trump.

But as we go into this general election and vote on the future of this country, our movement must be bold in making clear and progressive demands.”

Malia Bouattia, NUS President

Malia’s presidential address, was preceded by speeches from three campaigners; Sally Hunt, Danielle Tiplady and Ahmad Al-Rashid.

Sally, the General Secretary of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), rallied us to “protect the most vulnerable and rejecting the politics of hate”. She praised the collaboration between NUS and the UCU, adding: “we will need unity within our unions and between us, and a belief that we can bring about change. We must support each other, keep standing up for what we believe in and never, ever give up fighting for what is right.”

Next, delegates heard from Danielle, a student at the Royal College of Nursing who founded the #BursaryOrBust campaign which highlighted the government’s draconian plans for the welfare state.

Although she couldn’t be with us in person because of work commitments, Danielle joined us by video-link, where she told us about how the campaign has amplified the voices of her fellow students who face the prospect of graduating with at least £51,000 of debt and working in a sector on life support.

Finally, Ahmad - a campaigner from Aleppo who contributed to the award-winning film ‘Exodus: Our Journey To Europe’. He used his speech to encourage conference floor to understand the collective power they have a movement to challenge the negative perceptions of migrants in wider society. 

With nearly a thousand delegates from students' unions across the UK descending on Brighton this week, National Conference is the largest democratic gathering of students in the world.

Student leaders from across the UK have made the journey to the south coast to set NUS policy for the year ahead, and elect national student representatives for the 2017 - 18 academic year.

Not in Brighton for National Conference? Watch our live stream on NUS Connect and follow the action on Twitter using the #NUSNC17 hashtag.

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