I am a student at the University of Warwick. Tomorrow, we will become the latest university to hold a referendum on our membership of the National Union of Students (NUS). With two disaffiliations last week alone, and both Oxford and Cambridge voting soon, this nationwide move away from the NUS is a watershed moment in student politics.
The NUS claims that it is the collective voice of the student movement. But this is a fantasy held by careerist student politicians who are too removed from the average student to know better. In truth, the NUS has become an echo chamber of the right-on. Outside of the NUS, students will be better represented and better placed to take on the problems they face.
Although the NUS claims that it can stand up for students, it fails to make any substantial moves when, for instance, tuition fees rise. It appears student officials are too busy banning sombreros, boycotting Coca-Cola and pondering whether or not to condemn ISIS.
These gaffes are the result of structural problems within the NUS. Its anti-democratic system means ordinary students are locked out of the process. A one member, one vote system would be the easiest way to increase representation and allow student voices to be heard. But, for six years in a row, this proposal has been filibustered off the agenda or rejected altogether.
The argument most frequently made for staying in the NUS is about financial security. We’re told that the NUS grants individual students’ unions access to NUS Services Ltd (NUSSL) – a consortium that offers reduced costs for services and products. But the savings figures cited by the NUS do not take cheaper alternatives into account.
Indeed, the students’ unions that have voted for disaffiliation have flourished financially. As Southampton’s students’ union president has stated, the money it once handed over to the NUS is now ‘in play for things like student groups, employing student staff [and] campaigners’.
But the crucial point here is democracy. The NUS has a history of laughable campaigns, censorship and meddling. This has left the collective voice of students lost in a cacophony of right-on campaigns. And the will of a few student officers has been disguised as the will of the majority.
Join the rise of representation. Leave the NUS.
Sophia Bryant is a Bow Group intern, writer and student at the University of Warwick. Read more about Warwick's disaffiliation campaign here
This article was originally published at Spiked on 18/05/2016. Published online 23/05/2016