In 2014 NUS published Democracy is dead! Long Live Democracies! The report outlined research conducted across ten students’ unions into students’ attitudes towards democracy. As the title suggests, the research found the typical model of representative democracy used in students’ unions to be out of touch with the preferences of a majority of students. For example, most students didn’t want elected representatives to make decisions on their behalf, they didn’t feel they could hold representatives to account and so wanted to be consulted before they made decisions. Instead, most students wanted more direct and deliberative decision-making, whilst at the same time making it more inclusive; favouring more consensual processes over majority rule and broadening the democratic latitude to include financial decisions. Ultimately therefore, “Democracy is dead! Long live Democracies!” was a challenge to students’ unions to experiment with new, more diverse forms of democratic innovation to engage their students.
This report focuses on two students’ unions that have bravely accepted this challenge and broken from the norm to trial new ways of making decisions with their members, the new democratic vanguard: Liverpool Guild and Leeds Trinity Students’ Union (LTSU). This is not to say that everything these students’ unions have done is perfect, they are not (yet) a utopian democratic paradise, but rather they are trying something new for the benefit of their members and, by sharing their journey, the rest of the student movement.