Wednesday 11-05-2016 - 11:14
Over the next few weeks a number of students’ unions will be debating whether or not to remain affiliated to the National Union of Students (NUS).
Yesterday Lincoln University Students’ Union voted to leave NUS. This is a huge blow to Lincoln students who will collectively lose over £153,000 next year alone as a result of this decision. The truth is that there are huge financial benefits that come with being part of NUS that far outweigh the costs Students’ Unions pay in affiliation.
Lincoln students aren’t just going to lose out financially; they are going to miss out on being part of the largest democratic movement of students in Europe. A movement that trains and equips students and student leaders with the vital skills and knowledge needed to get the best deal for students on campus - whether that’s pushing our institutions to provide the best possible educational experience or ensuring our colleges and universities are providing the advice, services and support needed.
There is a bigger picture here. Yes - NUS provides fantastic discounts for students, excellent training for student representatives and activists and we have also achieved huge amounts in developing and strengthening the student voice locally and nationally.
But the bottom line is this: NUS is a movement representing 7 million students, through more than 600 affiliated Students’ Unions. We exist to defend students and to defend our education. And we are facing absolutely massive attacks from the government. The Conservatives are taking away maintenance grants for the poorest students, vital financial support from student nurses and cutting the allowance that helps disabled students get through university.
Over the next year we are facing the biggest cuts to our further education colleges we have ever seen, an attempt to increase university tuition fees yet again all alongside massive cuts to our public services, from transport to our NHS - services that all students rely upon.
These attacks are shutting people out of education. In the words of our NUS President-Elect, Malia Bouattia: “a generation of students is being forced out of education.”
At NUS National Conference last month we voted to build a student movement that is at the forefront of campaigning against education cuts, tuition fees and soaring student rents.
I have no doubt we can defeat the government’s attacks on students. The Tories are weak, divided and out of touch. The struggles of both teachers and junior doctors are making them think twice about their attacks on our schools and hospitals.
But we can only win for students if we step up our campaigning and build a strong, vibrant and united student movement which gets out there and makes the case in defence of education.
That’s why Lincoln University Students’ Union’s decision to disaffiliate this week isn’t just a setback for Lincoln students – it is a setback for NUS and the student movement as a whole. We lost the referendum at Lincoln by a tiny margin and I hope we can convince students that they’re better off with NUS, persuade them to re-affiliate at the earliest opportunity and welcome them home.
My message to students voting over the next few weeks on whether or not to stay with NUS is the following: stay with NUS for the money it saves you, for the money it saves your Students’ Union and to be part of Europe’s largest student movement which has a critical role to play in defending our education from the huge cuts and attacks we are seeing.
The government want nothing more than for our movement to be weakened and divided - so it’s vital that at times like this, we stand together united.