Five things we learnt at Higher Education Zone Conference

Wednesday 28-10-2015 - 13:25

NUS’ Zone Conferences kicked off yesterday with students and staff from the movement arriving in Bradford for a week of debates, discussions and democratic elections which will steer and shape the policy of NUS’ five Zones over the coming year.

The annual gathering - the second largest democratic event in the UK after our own National Conference - is being hosted in the city of Bradford for first time and began with a focus on our Higher Education and Further Education Zones.

Zone Conferences are a crucial part of the policy formation process and are an important milestone on the road to National Conference. Each Zone is based around a ‘key theme’ allowing a space for students’ unions to really shape NUS’ responses to the challenges each zone faces.

Here are five things we learnt during Higher Education Zone Conference...

1. Quality doesn’t grow on fees

Our Vice President (Higher Education), Sorana Vieru, announced our ‘Quality doesn’t grow on fees’ campaign against the damaging Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Over the two days, the conference focused on discussions around how, we as a student movement, should campaign against marketisation. This campaign is the next step in that work. We will be releasing resources and plans in the next few weeks about how students’ unions can get involved, so keep your eyes peeled!

2. We’re having a National Course Rep Conference (two, in fact!)

Sorana announced that we will continue to hold our annual ‘National Course Rep Conferences’ – one in the north of England, and one in the south. We are still finalising venues, but they will be held on the first two Saturdays in February (6 and 13 February). We are still developing the agenda, but we will be focusing on supporting reps to campaign to liberate the curriculum, develop their skills, and engage in national campaigns. However, do let us know if there’s something you’d like to be included for your reps.

3. We love FE

This year HE Zone ran concurrently with the FE Zone. Not only did this provide everyone with an excellent chance to show off our karaoke skills, but also to hear about each other’s campaigns. There are so many areas where both FE and HE students can support each other – particularly with the huge changes happening because of the FE Area Reviews. Our FE campaign is amazing, and does amazing things – and we can all do more to help out!

4. Liberation has to be at the heart of our movement and our education

A main theme throughout our conference was how a quality education must be a liberated one. As well as sessions on liberating the curriculum, we discussed and debated how the current system continues to shut out vast parts of our society. We will continue to campaign for a more liberated curriculum and more representative movement, and have produced liberation course rep training and a guide to NUS resources on representing our diverse members. The over-arching message was that ‘student engagement shouldn’t be an end in itself, but a means for achieving the education we want.’

5. We’ve been shafted by debt (but we already knew that…)

Our HE and FE Zone Conferences concluded today, with the closing day featuring the elections for both the FE and HE Zone Committees. This afternoon sees more delegates arrive for the Union Development Zone Conference before our final two zones; Welfare and Society and Citizenship begin on Thursday 29 October.   

Not in Bradford for Zone Conference? Follow the action on social media using the hashtag #NUSzones15


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