Photo: Flickr / iancvt55
Questions surrounding whether the NUS represents students across UK, and whether Student Union’s can even survive outside the NUS, have been the topic of hot debate over the last few weeks. Now it is time to address whether Warwick SU can, or should, leave the NUS.
The argument most often proposed to stay in the NUS is one of financial security. The NUS grants access to NUSSL, the consortium which offers reduced buying costs (for instance, the SU’s discount of £61,400 through buying alcoholic and soft drinks seems appealing). Yet, NUSSL can only be considered a real saving when you’re sure of the costs of an alternative. There are a number of alternative consortiums available to Warwick; costs are negotiable and may have regional variation. Since Warwick SU’s commercial operations are substantial (five popular outlets and a nightclub); negotiation, improved deals and keeping costs down should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a risk. Financial security is imperative for any Students’ Union, and with the NUS so close to bankruptcy in the last decade, we can do better. Don’t be fooled: only 0.4% of Warwick SU profit is from the NUS.
NUS Extra cards savings is another reason why many believe they are better off in the Union. They’re marketed as a major benefit to membership; allegedly saving students a considerable amount of money. However, dig a little deeper and there are far superior alternatives. A quick search online shows nearly every discount found elsewhere for free, for instance through UNiDAYS, offering for instance 50% off Spotify, and unlike with the NUS, there is no joining fee.
Nonetheless, for me and many others the most important debate is one of representation. I do not want to be a member of a Union where 0.0005% claim to represent 7 million members. It suggests that the most significant function of any Union, to represent, is failing within the NUS. Six years in a row this has been addressed with motions to implement a one-member-one-vote system to give you more representation: 6 years in a row this has been rejected. When only 0.01% elect representatives, the truth is that the NUS is very distant from you as a student: can you trust that they have your best interests at heart?
But if Warwick leaves, won’t we be alone? Not at all. Imperial College, Southampton, St Andrews and Glasgow are amongst many Universities with Students Unions which have left the NUS and embraced independence, financial prosperity and greater representation for their students. The NUS loses considerable revenue for each union that disaffiliates, and currently disaffiliation campaigns stand at around forty universities. Even if just a fraction of these are successful the NUS will experience financial problems; leading inevitably to a worse deal for member unions.
This argument is not about the recent controversy surrounding delegate elections, the hundreds of gaffs which have plagued the NUS’ reputation, or which exact consortium Warwick will negotiate with. This is about wider persistent issues of representation and accountability. But most of all: I want a better future for Warwick.