By Fiona Edwards and Aaron Kiely, Student Broad Left
Since the left won NUS President last month, along with a majority of the NUS leadership positions, a huge struggle has begun. The right wing both within the student movement and in wider society have launched attacks and smears against this new, progressive leadership.
As we wrote in our report of the Conference (which you can read here), for the first time in decades the student movement has a left wing leadership which is committed to fighting the Tories’ massive attacks on education.
In response to this historic turning point for the student movement, campaigns to disaffiliate Students’ Unions from NUS have emerged at over 25 campuses.
Defeating these attempts to disaffiliate is not simply about defending NUS’ new left wing leadership and defending NUS democracy – it’s a question of defending the student movement itself. Disaffiliations from NUS at a time of savage education cuts and huge attacks on students risk significantly weakening the student movement’s ability to defend itself at this critical time.
In order to defeat these disaffiliation attempts, we need to use the strongest arguments in our campaigning.
To put it simply: NUS is much, much more than a discount card. NUS is the national voice of students, it’s a campaigning organisation and it’s currently fighting for a better education system, a better society and a better world for all of us.
NUS represents 7 million students, with over 600 college and university Students’ Unions affiliated. We are stronger together and any disaffiliations will weaken the student movement and our ability to fight back and win for students.
Over the past two years the leadership of NUS has dramatically shifted – and we now have, for the first time in decades, elected many National Officers who are committed to building a fighting, campaigning NUS.
So, here are our top 11 reasons to SAY YES TO NUS!
1. Campaigning against tuition fees and student debt – yes to free education! Over the next year, the government plans to pass new laws which will allow universities to increase tuition fees yet again. Britain is already the most expensive place to study in Europe, with students graduating with an average of over £40,000 debt. It doesn’t have to be this way. A couple of years ago Germany scrapped their tuition fees in response to a student movement that was active, campaigning and demanding change. Inspired by this example, NUS is fighting to stop any further fee increases and has started the work of building a movement to abolish tuition fees (for many years various NUS Presidents have supported charging students thousands of pounds & getting them in to huge debt!).
2. No ifs, no buts, no education cuts! Further Education Colleges and Sixth Forms are facing massive cuts whilst our universities are seeing their budgets slashed. Courses are being closed down and whole campuses and colleges are facing closure. This means less choice and less opportunities for students. We cannot accept this. This year’s NUS National Conference voted to launch a massive new campaign to ‘Save Our Futures’ and stop the education cuts. This year, we need the whole student movement united to defend our education – from the cradle to the grave.
3. Defending vital student support. NUS has supported and built big campaigns on campuses and nationally to defend students from attacks on our living standards. From the Tories scrapping maintenance grants for the poorest students to slashing NHS Bursaries and taking away the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). NUS is building opposition to these attacks nationally – giving up this fight will mean even more vital student support will be taken away.
4. Fighting for affordable housing. The truth is that student loans are barely covering the cost of rent. This is down to the privatization of university accommodation, a lack of rent controls and a no real affordable accommodation being built. NUS is leading big national campaigns to change this and win for students up and down the country.
5. Campaigning for a living wage (for students and our staff) and decent, affordable jobs. Times are tough for students and are even tougher when we graduate. The government’s austerity offensive is making it harder and harder to find decent, well-paid and secure employment. NUS is at the heart of a movement, alongside trade unions, to change that.
6. Building the next generation of campaigners, activists and leaders to fight for progressive change. NUS plays a critical role in training up students from across the country on how to run campaigns, how to run successful Students’ Union and how to get the best deal for students on campus. NUS organises events, conferences and workshops which provide a crucial space to share best practice, learn from each other and develop unity between HE and FE.
7. At the forefront of fighting for equality. NUS has a proud record of campaigning for liberation and against all forms of discrimination from challenging sexual harassment on campuses, building the ‘refugees welcome here’ movement, being a part of the coalition which won equal marriage for LGBT people and campaigning to save vital support for disabled students. NUS has consistently prioritized the fight against all forms of racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
8. Defending international students. NUS has done fantastic work defending international students and their rights – from stopping the government from deporting international students to opposing discrimination. This important work must be supported and continued.
9. Building a sustainable, green future. NUS has played a pioneering role in tackling the greatest threat facing us all on this planet – climate change. From making a huge contribution to greening our college and university campuses – through the Green Impact scheme, supporting pivotal divestment campaigns, to mobilizing students onto the streets to protest against fracking and fossil fuels and to get green jobs – NUS has proudly been at the forefront of the green movement.
10. Supporting the right to education, social justice and peace across the world. NUS supports the right to education across the world and for decades has mobilized students against war and nuclear weapons.
11. Don’t forget the NUS Extra Discount Card! NUS has negotiated massive discounts for students with a huge array of companies – something which saves students millions of pounds! Whether it’s 10% off at the Co-Op or getting great deals for our Students’ Union shops – NUS does a lot to keep the cost of student living down.
With massive attacks on education and students taking place, now is the time to unite together and build an NUS that is at the forefront of campaigning for a better education system, a better society and a better world. We are stronger together – so vote YES TO NUS.
If you are campaigning to say YES TO NUS, want to fight the disaffiliation campaigns that have emerged and want advice and help in running your campaign – get in touch with Student Broad Left. Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.