Should we be part of the NUS?


[Chloe Burrowes | Contributing Writer]

As my friend Leanne listed the benefits of her NUS extra card starting with any girl’s best friend, 10% Topshop discount, and finishing with the 25% off tickets at Odeon, I realised how appealing the card sounded! However, it made me realise how little credit we give to being part of the National Union of Students, (NUS to most of us) – the confederation of 600 student unions – but why should we be part of it?

So, the card bursting with discounts is a major pull to being part of the union, allowing you to walk through pretty much any high street or shopping centre and giving you discounts in most of the major shops and restaurants. Chaz Orr, a songwriting and music production student at the University of Hertfordshire agreed that the card was a major pull, ‘It’s unbelievable the amount of discounts you can get! It’s quick and easy as I don’t always carry my student ID and it’s widely accepted.’

NUS is much more than just a card in your pocket though, it’s a student voice. Shannon Newman, a UWE Media student said ‘students are the future generation so it’s important we have a chance to have a say in our society.’ This is what being part of the union provides us – a united force against problems which affect us and it works! Most recently the government proposed cuts on the disabled student allowance and due to lobbying by members of the NUS; the changes will not be going ahead. On the website alone, there are numerous petitions to sign, all relevant to student living such as scrapping landlord fees and fixing international student fees.

With so much change in terms of student life, a union which supports us and allows action to take place is something we should embrace rather than ignore. If we didn’t have a voice we’d complain; but maybe it’s time that our student unions advertise the opportunities the NUS have to offer more.

AGAINST [Jennie Couling | Contributing Writer]

The National Union of Students claims to ‘represent the interests of more than seven million students’ but with an increasing amount of student unions opting out of belonging to the organisation, that number is on the decline. Amongst others, the student unions of St Andrews, Imperial College London, Cardiff Met, Southampton, Glasgow and Dundee universities are no longer affiliated with NUS.

While The NUS claim that they ‘[make] a real difference to the lives of students’, a survey conducted in April by The Tab revealed that ‘35% of respondents said they felt NUS could do better, 23% said they were bloody useless, and 35% also said they had no idea what NUS even does’. So do Hertfordshire students know what NUS do? Do they care?

Well it doesn’t take much digging to find out why some students have gotten so riled up about the issue. From a union’s perspective, belonging to NUS is expensive with some unions being charged over £50 000 a year for membership. And that £12 you spend on your discount card adds up to £3.9 million a year. So surely all this money is spent protecting the interests of students? Well maybe not.

When the University and College Union threatened a marking boycott last year, stopping students from getting their assessments marked and graduating on time, NUS supported them. NUS decided it was ok for UCU to use students as pawns in an argument that mostly seemed to be aimed at Vice-Chancellors and their huge salaries as staff were unsatisfied with a 1% pay increase. Never mind about students’ fees tripling since 2010. Thankfully, Hertfordshire Students’ Union campaigned against the boycott, demonstrating they are willing to go out on a limb for their students, even if it means going against the NUS.

Then there are their wider political policies. While NUS have done some great things like changing the definition of ‘woman’ and campaigning to fight climate change; like their decision to back the marking boycott, some seem to defy all logic. Last month they refused to pass a motion to condemn Isis because some voters felt the wording ‘unfairly demonise all Muslims’. The motion put forward suggested NUS support ‘Iraqis trying to bridge the Sunni-Shia divide to fight for equality and democracy’ and ‘condemn the IS and support the Kurdish forces fighting against it‘, no condemnation of Islam as a whole or anything but support for all affected.

It’s becoming clear to me that there are some dodgy decisions made by NUS, the most baffling of which being the election of Toni Pearce as President, someone who has never even been to university. So while other Students’ Unions are showing they can be successful without The NUS, maybe it’s time Hertfordshire Students’ Union thought about why are continuing to give huge amounts of money to an organisation that, ultimately, doesn’t offer support or a coherent voice to its students.

What do you think – Should we be a part of the NUS? Have your say @TridentMediaUK!

(Disclaimer: There opinions are the writers own and are not endorsed by UniVerse or Trident Media)

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