Delegates vote to reform the NUS

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Delegates at the National Union of Students (NUS) conference have backed a set of reforms aimed to transform the organisation into a ‘lean campaigning machine’ and rescue it from financial ruin.

Delegates were faced with these reforms after the NUS, last October, announced to members that it had a £3.6 million shortfall and was potentially facing bankruptcy.

In January they confirmed also that 54 jobs had been cut due to the organisations ‘financial issues’ and planned to reduce elected roles from 20 to 12.

In January they also confirmed that 54 jobs had been cut due to the organisations ‘financial issues’

The annual conference saw nearly 700 students from almost 200 member students’ unions travel to Glasgow. After almost five hours of debate on Wednesday, in which no press were allowed inside to observe, delegates backed the proposals.

Shakira Martin, NUS President, hoped that these reforms would create “a new NUS structure that addresses the governance issues that have contributed in part to our current financial challenges.”

Conference were told that students’ unions are ‘no longer willing to pay into NUS at the current rate’ and that a new business model would be required. It also acknowledged that the NUS must ‘reduce its costs by 50%’ and ‘re-build its cash reserve by at least £3 million in order to survive’.

The reforms will see the NUS reduce its operations to an ‘absolute core’

The reforms will see the NUS reduce its operations to an ‘absolute core’ in-order to reduce to affiliation fee, rebuild a cash reserve and ‘deliver decent campaigns and services for and with members’.

This new structure was presented as giving ‘the NUS the best chance of making it to its 100th birthday’.

A National Scrutiny Council will be created in order to ensure ‘transparency and accountability of student officers’ and a requirement implemented for the NUS board to ensure it has ‘corporate expertise from outside the student movement’.

It is hoped that these changes will simplify the governance of the NUS so that the organisation can allow focus on core activities and a ‘clear set of priorities’.

This new structure was presented as giving ‘the NUS the best chance of making it to its 100th birthday’.

Some of those elected roles at risk were the liberation officers, those who represent LGBT+, trans, black, disabled and women students. An amendment was passed stating that, if the NUS could afford more officers in the in the future, full-time liberation officers should be reinstated. Another backed amendment saw the NUS Trans Campaign reinstated, after it had been previously defunded.

Following the conclusion of the debate, Shakira Martin NUS President said: “I am grateful to Conference for taking this momentous decision to endorse reform and deliver the vision of members. This vote sends a clear message that we have listened, heard and acted.

“We will now prepare for a Company meeting and subject to their endorsement for transition, the organisation will reform. This will see us create a new NUS structure that addresses the governance issues that have contributed in part to our current financial challenges.”

Wednesday’s proceedings also saw Durham Delegate ’s rent strike policy adopted, a measure aimed at reducing a “barrier to education access”.

The policy mandates NUS officers to provide support for groups undertaking rent strikes and the creation and growth of tenant unions.

Chapman told Palatinate: “Durham is the 4th worst university in this country for social inclusion, and I came to this conference with a mandate to change that.

“I put forward this motion as we need to give students every weapon we can to fight back against the marketisation of higher education which allows this to happen, and this motion sends a strong message to UK universities that we will not stay silent when they seek to price out poorer students.”

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