Referdenum: Should Solent SU should disaffiliate from NUS UK and NUS Charity?
Last month, we held a campus-wide referendum, both online at www.solentsu.co.uk and in-person at our Freshers Fair.
The question posed to Solent University students to vote on was:
Solent SU should disaffiliate from NUS UK and NUS Charity?
You, our members, could use your voices and vote
in our referendum. The votes were then counted and shared with the Returning Officer to verify the number of votes for each option.
The count and result
We want to say thank you to who took part in the NUS referendum. Unfortunately, we were delayed in releasing the above results as we were unable to verify some of the student ID's numbers due to a server issue with the university.
The issue has been resolved and the Returning Officer has verified the count, so we can now share the outcome with you.
The vote has been counted and Solent University students have recommended that Solent Students’ Union should disaffiliate from NUS UK and NUS charity.
A quorum of 300 individual Solent Students' Union memeber votes within the referendum was required. The total number of votes receieved within the referendum was 416.
We have be able to verify/spoil all ballots in this election with assistance from Solent University and able to remove any ballots that were discovered to have been spoiled or invalid.
A breakdown of paper ballots can be found below.
- Yes - 324
- No - 33
- Abstain - 8
- Spoiled - 51
To see the breakdown of online votes, click here.
What happens next?
Our four Sabbatical Officers will take the outcome and count of the referendum to the next Trustee Board, who will review the evidence and case to disaffiliate. Once a decision has been made, we will provide further updates soon via our website and on social media.
What is NUS?
The National Union of Students is a membership organisation that states aims to promote, defend and extend the rights of students and the interests of Students’ Unions across the UK. Most students' unions are affiliated to NUS, but some are not. Those who are, pays an annual affiliation fee to be a member. Members can send representatives to NUS democratic events throughout the year to vote on policies and priorities.
NUS is led by an elected committee of student representatives, including a President. These representatives have a responsibility for campaigning and lobbying for the interests of students at a national level, including to government and to sector bodies such as the Office for Students.
In 2019, NUS restructured and cut its staff team due to significant ongoing financial losses, largely due to bank loans and pension liabilities. Consequently, NUS’s ability to support students’ unions with election, governance, and support services, has become more limited. Solent Students’ Union is generally able to go without this support or find it elsewhere, at additional cost.
Since the restructure, NUS now exists as NUS UK (the campaigning part of the organisation) and NUS Charity (which provides training and support to members).
What are the costs of NUS membership?
The affiliation fee is based on how much money a students’ union receives from its university, often referred to as a ‘block grant’. Affiliation to NUS UK costs 2% of the block grant and affiliation to NUS Charity costs 0.5% of the block grant. The current total cost for Solent Students’ Union to affiliate to NUS UK and NUS Charity is £11,730. In recent years, several students’ unions have voted to disaffiliate from NUS UK but remain affiliated to NUS Charity. To discourage this, NUS leaders voted to enforce a 2% fee if a students’ union wished to only affiliate to one part of NUS, effectively quadrupling the affiliation fee to NUS Charity.
What are the benefits of disaffiliation?
Solent Students’ Union would no longer pay the affiliation fee, saving roughly £11,730 a year. This could be re-invested into services that students directly experience, such as Course Reps, Societies, the advice service and more. NUS have been at the centre of controversy over the past few years, including an investigation into claims that the NUS is a systematically antisemitic organisation, and their President was removed from their post as a consequence (which she contests is unfair and is now subject to legal action). In response, NUS has created an action plan to tackle the issue. There is feeling within some students’ unions that NUS have lost credibility due to this, with by their inability to meet with government currently offered as evidence.
Lastly, students would not be able to buy a Totum card (formally NUS Card) which provides discounts, and would be limited to free options such as Unidays or Student Beans.
What are the benefits of remaining with NUS?
NUS is the national representative of the majority of students’ unions, which offers legitimacy to act as the national voice for students. Each students; unions that disaffiliates weakens the ability of NUS to act in the interests of student on national issues.
We would also lose the ability to send our students and staff to various NUS events*. We currently have the opportunity to send students to NUS National Conference each year, allowing us to have a voice in shaping NUS policy and work. We can also send students to Liberation Conference which allows our students from disadvantaged backgrounds to discuss national student issues in a safe space and set policy specific to their individual issues for NUS to work towards. Staff members would lose the opportunity to attend various training events* throughout the year, or they would become significantly more expensive for staff to benefit from the training and networking opportunities. Further, students will lose the ability to buy an TOTUM card which provides students with some student discounts for a yearly fee.
*Events and training are usually offered at a fee in addition to the affiliation cost.