NUS National Conference 2023

Last week, alongside Muscab Salad (your elected NUS delegate), your sabbatical officers attended the NUS National Conference. Take a read to find out what went down!

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Photo of Maia Jarvis, Hannah Hockin, Shrijeet Shrey, and Muscab Salad at NUS National Conference.

From Wednesday 15 - Thursday 16 March, myself, Hannah, Shrey, and Muscab Salad (your elected NUS delegate), went to the largest student gathering in Europe: the National Union of Students National Conference.

NUS represents almost all students across the country and at National Conference, 800 students, and sabbatical officers decide NUS’ priorities and shape what they will lobby for. The first day is all about discussing our opinions and collating ideas; day two is about debating the final policies. On Wednesday, we attended workshops on:

  • Cost of Living
  • International students
  • NUS Transparency and Democracy

We fed into the proposed policies and gave our solutions to huge issues affecting students right now. On day two, the officers and I attended a workshop on ‘Strategic Campaigning in the Student Movement’, led by Neehal Bajwa, NUS VP Liberation and Equality, and it was all about finding out where our power lies in the student movement and how we can lead effective campaigns to achieve our goals. It was really inspiring to learn about all the amazing officer/student-led campaigns across the country: we heard about Gender Expression Funds, which aim to support students who need to purchase items to help them feel more comfortable with their gender presentation; lobbying for free periods across campus (which I’m currently doing here!); helping students with laundry costs and much more.

We then attended a session on NUS accountability, which was led by the NUS full-time officers and the NUS Board. The officers were held accountable for their work and the National Scrutiny Council (the body which holds them to account) provided a report: it’s like a much bigger version of how the Student Executives hold officers to account.

The last few years have been turbulent for NUS: back in November, their President was dismissed after an independent investigation into allegations of antisemitism. In January this year, NUS released a full report on antisemitism within the organisation. Several unions have held referendums to decide whether to disaffiliate from NUS and a handful has this year. This tension came to a head at the conference where some delegates voiced their frustration at NUS transparency and how the conference was being run. A Q&A with officers was spontaneously organised in order to ensure delegates felt like their voices were being heard. It was at times a tense atmosphere, but delegates ultimately did get a forum to express their opinions on NUS policy and how the conference was being run.

After the transparency session, there were live debates on the five proposed policies:

  • Cost of Living
  • International students
  • NUS Democracy & Regional Organising
  • Housing
  • Education

Delegates were able to take the mic and give their opinion on the proposals. Our very own Shrey and Muscab gave their feedback on the international student experience and the ‘one student one vote’ proposal (the idea that all students should be able to vote and decide NUS priorities) respectively! After the conference, all delegates then vote on whether NUS should adopt the policies. To close, there was a talk from Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, on the student movement and the general election.

It was exciting for officers to feed into national policy, connect with other officers and be part of the largest student gathering in Europe! We look forward to finding out how NUS will rebuild its relationship with officers and students on the ground and contribute to future campaigns.