My review of the week (7-11 December 2015)

Monday 14-12-2015 - 17:18

A week that begins with a national lobby of Parliament and ends with a Christmas party is always a good one to me!

Last week I said I want to make sure you get a summary of the useful resources and actions every week from NUS. There are quite a few highlights from last week, so, here’s what happened in my review of the week:

Interview on social media trolling

On Monday I sat down with the Sunday Times to talk about the impact of social media on education and debate.

  • Over the last few weeks NUS has undertaken a survey of some 2,000 students and students’ unions officers. 46 per cent said that they have been trolled for their personal views and opinions online.
  • Whilst people are always going to ignore rules and be disrespectful, there is a line where this becomes hateful and is leaving students afraid to express opinions for fear of receiving abuse.
  • In my interview with the Sunday Times I said I want to ensure NUS takes action to support students’ unions and officers tackle this problem. We are seeing this affect the mental health of officers and students alike and it’s time to say enough is enough.

More on what NUS does in this area

  • You can read my interview with the Sunday Times here.
  • I wrote an article for the Huffington Post about the abuse suffered by Izzy Lenga from Birmingham Guild which you can read here.
  • If you have any thoughts and ideas about our campaign to root out this behaviour or a personal story you want to share with us to support the campaign, do email me or tweet me @megandunn116.

#CutTheCosts national lobby of Parliament

  • On Tuesday hundreds of students from students’ unions all over the country came to the #CutTheCosts lobby of Parliament in Westminster.

  • I’m hugely grateful to every officer and student who organised to join the lobby and did amazing work lobbying over 200 MPs. As a direct result of the lobby a motion has been already laid in Parliament against the scrapping of maintenance grants. This could lead to a debate being called in Parliament on the issue.
  • A rally took place in the afternoon at the lobby which included support from Caroline Lucas MP, spokespeople from UNISON and UCU, a medical student from the British Medical Association Student Committee and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
  • There’s also some really horrific photos of me and the other officers looking ancient to support the campaign against debt in education – and you can read about that here.

More on what NUS does in this area

  • You can find out more about the lobby and what happened at the day by reading our article over at NUS Connect.
  • Throughout the week students’ unions took action on a number of ways and you can download our briefing on next actions here.
  • We’re asking MPs to sign the motion laid in Parliament, details of which can be found here - and in the coming days we’ll be announcing the next stages of the #CutTheCosts campaign as a whole.

Lobbying and meeting with the Treasury

On Wednesday I went to meet with the Treasury department to lobby them on a number of key areas, and represent the views of students’ unions.

  • This is an incredibly difficult time for the education sector, especially given the amount of money that is being cut from public spending – particularly within Further Education where we are seeing colleges being stripped and starved of funding.
  • I again emphasised our policy on a number of different areas – including outlining our belief in an education system free from barriers and that access is prioritised.
  • We also had specific conversations about maintenance grants as well as postgraduate support.

More on what NUS does in this area

  • Don’t forget that we have our ‘Quality Doesn’t Grow on Fees’ campaign for students’ unions about these very issues and in response to the TEF. You can find a briefing here.
  • You can also access our resources for the #LoveSUs campaign and information about our response to the Green Paper here.

Standing up for Europe, against Farage

During the week I also had an article published which I wrote as part of my role as a director on the ‘Britain Stronger In Europe’ campaign; the biggest campaign advocating for NUS’ position of staying in Europe.

  • I wrote for the New Stateman this week in defence of the European Union and how we at NUS are arguing for an EU that tackles climate change, fights poverty and gives sanctuary to refugees.
  • It turned out that I was put up against Nigel Farage in the publication. So, I ended up taking students’ unions message and policy to the heart of the campaign against the xenophobia from Farage.
  • I’ll be ensuring that all the action I take within the campaign is putting these messages front and centre and continue to challenge the damaging rhetoric portrayed by those who stand against us.
  • You can read my article for the New Statesman here.

Speech to Universities UK on building students more power

I spoke to the university sector about how we can work together in institutions across the country to give students more power in their education.

  • On Wednesday I also spoke to the conference of Universities UK and spoke about working together to give students more power.
  • I touched on a number of key issues; including our Green Paper response, the Teaching Excellence Framework and how we need organisations like UUK standing up and defending students’ unions and the contribution officers and staff all over the country make to making education better.
  • I also challenged UUK to become more vocal in supporting us and the campaigns we run to protect student funding and finances – particularly given the recent announcement of the scrapping of NHS bursaries for medical students.
  • You can read the full text of my speech to UUK here.
  • You can also check out more details over on UUK’s twitter feed.

Celebrating NUS’ history

On Wednesday evening I headed to NUS’ Alumni Network to give my thanks to many former officers and staff of NUS for their contribution to our movement.

  • Over 50 former sabbatical officers and NUS officers from across our 93 year history came together as part of NUS’ Alumni Network.
  • I gave a speech which said these friends of NUS, who are now in important positions of power across the UK, will be our frontline as we defend students’ unions as part of the #LoveSUs campaign.
  • We talked about going forward, including our Project 100 strategy process to build a stronger NUS and a stronger student movement.

More on what NUS does in this area

  • You can read and find out more about how to get involved with the Project 100 strategy process by reading more information here.

British Chambers Commerce

On Thursday I was at the British Chambers of Commerce over in Holborn for their education and employment conference.

  • I was on a panel session alongside women from across the education and employment sector talking about the future of education and how employers can be part of that.
  • Whilst many questions were about employability, I brought up the fact that students are facing an employment crisis where they are more trained and skilled than ever before, but cannot get a job.
  • This is a big issue that faces students on the ground but also key to the work of students’ unions across the country. NUS has worked with BCC before on a number of areas and I was grateful for the chance to speak about the issues facing students and how we can address these.

More on what NUS does in this area

  • NUS launched our Commission on the Future of Work report a few months ago which has many interesting ideas for how employers, NUS, the government and education institutions can work together.
  • You can read the report here and find out more information.

Christmas Party

Finally, on Friday, I celebrated the year with staff and officers from NUS at our Christmas Party! We undertook sessions, including on Project 100 and many of the wins that NUS and students’ unions have secured over the course of the year.

  • NUS is full of resource for students’ unions and we have put in place a new team of people to ensure you can get the most out of your membership.
  • To help you do that I’ve put together a guide on getting the best out of NUS which you can download here.
  • Do get in touch with your Membership Engagement Executive if you want more help and support about NUS and how you can access more of our resources and expertise.

As we head into 2016, I’m incredibly excited to continue working on behalf of students’ unions and I wish everyone a very happy and relaxing festive period.

Megan x



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