Friday 13-11-2015 - 13:16
When we were elected, we were both clear in our manifestos that NUS was going to need to prioritise supporting SUs in FE. We are publishing a document today outlining how the organisation plans to do that.
FE is too important to side-line. Cuts have brought the sector to its knees and the government’s area reviews will change our sector dramatically. The future of FE is unclear. Just as unclear is the place of student representation, as are many of the safeguards that protect equality of opportunity in the education system. Our duty to the 4 million students in FE should not be unclear – we must ensure their voices are loud, because an FE system with empowered learners has the power to transform lives and society. This principle is a fundamental part of our vision for a quality education and a good society.
It is also our shared belief that students are at our most powerful when we collaborate and act collectively. This collectivism must mean that attention and resources are distributed to where they are needed the most, and currently that is in FE.
We need to be radical going forward because our typical approaches are now having less effect than they used to. We need to show leadership and really challenge some of the old assumptions. For example, we know it isn’t the case that taking student representation seriously means significant investment in traditional university models. We now have to win the argument by building workable, effective alternatives. We have come so far and we now need to go beyond the usual, creating a culture of innovation before we can progress.
Part of this is about being clear in our own assessment about what we’re trying to achieve and how effective our work is towards that. This helps us understand how to improve and to show others the value of student representation.
We need to be honest about which battles we can win. This government will push ahead with creating fewer, larger colleges so we need to be in the room for each and every potential merger, making constructive arguments in the interests of students.
Finally, it’s crucial that we discuss our plans with our members and stakeholders. This is how we find out where NUS can really make a difference and our experience shows it’s how we can effect real, lasting change across our education system. Our power comes from a deep connection with what’s happening in students’ unions and at the grassroots of our movement so, whilst we can lead, we must not run off.
In September 2015 we asked NUS staff to facilitate a meeting of student officers, practitioners and key sector bodies including Ofsted and the Association of Colleges. From this summit, we are proud to share this document. It draws on the advice from our friends and stakeholders to set out a direction for NUS in the ways we can prioritise supporting SUs in FE. We hope this marks the start of an important journey in the history of our student movement – when FE takes centre-stage.
Vice President (Union Development)
Vice President (Further Education)