It's that time of year again: SU election season. This year we have an exciting opportunity to effect change at Bristol SU. We are currently affiliated to the National Union of Students (NUS) but every 3 years we hold a referendum on that affiliation. For most of us this will be our only a chance to have a say on our membership of this organisation. Whether you've heard of the NUS before or not, I'm going to make the case why we should choose 'No'.
The comparison to the 2016 Brexit referendum is obvious. However, in that referendum most people had at least some idea of what the EU did. I think that's much less true with the referendum here. If you don't know much, have a read of both campaigns and see how you feel, but question why it's taken you so long to hear about the NUS. Here are our main three arguments so you don't have to find them.
Firstly, resources. We've been spending over £50,000 per year on affiliation to the NUS every year for at least the last 5 years. This is a pretty hefty price tag for an organisation most students may not have heard of. If we vote ‘No’ and disaffiliate from the NUS, I hope that students can decide where this money could be spent. Whether that’s on societies, networks or campaigns, I would love to see students having more of a say.
Secondly, representation. Most of the decisions which affect our lives as students are made at the level of the University. University management choose how many undergraduates to take each year, what support is available to students and the rules on assessments, timetabling and courses. Let's stop wasting Bristol SU's time and resources on sending people to debate these issues nationally at NUS conferences.
I do agree that there are some national issues which affect students and I applaud the work the NUS has done fighting for liberation groups, ensuring accountability over the BAME attainment gap and helping to lobby on international students’ visas. However, I believe that we can still do all these amazing things even if we choose to disaffiliate. We're one of the strongest and most active Students' Unions in the country and I doubt that the NUS would suddenly refuse to work together on these issues.
Finally, reform. Many people say that we ought to be affiliated to change the NUS from the inside. I think that time has run out on this argument. Political scandals and financial mismanagement have reduced the credibility of the NUS. Not only has this reduced its capacity for national change, but it means we have gone beyond the point of reform. The factions and divisions inside the organisation mean that even reforms with the best of intentions are unlikely to solve the systemic issues within the NUS.
Elections for course reps and full-time officers are vital, make sure you vote in those. But the decision you make this week has the power to change student life for at least the next 3 years, and hopefully more. In 3 years’ time, if we’re so much worse off, we get the chance to affiliate again.However, based on the experience of other universities, such as Imperial, Southampton and Newcastle, life for students is much better outside the NUS.
Choose 'No' and choose to empower Bristol SU to fight for us on a local and national stage with more representation and more resources for our student community.
Read the Yes Campaign article here .
Click here to vote in the referendum.
Do you think we should leave the NUS?