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Regional Networks: Building Strong Active Unions

Thursday 08-09-2016 - 10:08

NUS President Malia Bouattia writes about the diversity of our student movement and the need to build regional networks as well as strong, active students’ unions.

The strength and the beauty of our movement lies in its diversity – its diversity of experiences, interests and entry points. It lies in the virtually infinite levels of creativity and inventiveness that this diversity can bring.

We are a movement of many, of millions of students, with experience in further and higher education, in small and specialist or large and ‘traditional’ institutions, in pre or post '92 universities. We have among us science and humanities students; sports, music and theatre enthusiasts; people with a thousand interests or just one absolute passion. 

We need to build on our strengths if we are to defend our vision for a free, accessible, and liberated education for all, at any point in life. 

Yet, despite the fact that my starting point seems obvious, it is rare for us to come together as a movement – both nationally and locally. College and university sabbatical officers, let alone students, rarely meet to strategise, or take action together. We tend to know in theory that we are a big and vibrant movement, while having very little practical experience of it. This needs to change.

If cuts, fees, and marketisation are already huge challenges, they are far from being the only ones. Students face Prevent officers and rogue landlords, financial problems and deportation threats, sexual violence and racial discrimination, depression and lack of available service, LGBTphobia and ableism, to name but a few. 

Too often the pressure, stress, and urgency of specific instances force us to deal with these problems on a campus or department level without ever having the time or the adequate space to talk with others who face similar issues. We rarely have the opportunity to share experiences, best practices, and ideas. We seldom find ways to take city-wide or regional action, to raise awareness and amplify the reach of our actions. This needs to change. 

In light of this need, I was elected on a platform that emphasised the need to encourage, create, and sustain regional networks in which students and officers could come together to discuss current issues, share ideas on how to address them, and take collective action. As such, NUS is launching a series of termly regional networks. This term they will take place on university campuses, and next term in colleges. The idea is for students and officers across each region to meet, network and plan collectively - building on the central strength and greatest resource of our movement. The first series of events will take place in October in the run up to the national demonstration.

The aim of the events is to bring together people who are already involved in some of these areas of work while also encouraging others to learn and be inspired by their peers’ to start new projects locally. The day events will also include open discussions with all the attendees where it will be possible to build connections with people across your city and region, interact with national priorities, discuss local initiatives and make plans for future shared work. My hope is that by getting the ball rolling many new projects will see the day, and your existing efforts will be amplified.

It is a regular occurrence for us to state that our strength lies in our numbers and our diversity. We want to provide a space for that strength to be developed, encouraged and acted upon. The first step has to be to come together. The second one will be discussion, disagreement, and exchange. The third is always action. And from collective action, all the great changes – across history and the world – are born. Now, more than ever, in our education system we need great changes. Lets make it happen.

You can register for the events here:

  • London (Goldsmiths College Students’ Union), Thursday 6 October 

      
     
  • South West (Bristol Students’ Union), Friday 7 October

      
     
  • West Midlands (Warwick Students’ Union), Tuesday 18 October

      
     
  • South East (Sussex University Students’ Union), Friday 21 October

      
     
  • East Midlands (University of Nottingham Students’ Union), Monday 28 November

      
     
  • North West (Manchester Students’ Union), Friday 2 December

      

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