Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/353/5834
Socialist Students Fight NUS Cuts
National Union of Students (NUS) held a one-day extraordinary conference on 17 June to discuss finance and reform, which never got debated at the last annual conference. The motion from the right-wing dominated National Executive Committee (NEC) proposed a package of cuts in the democratic structures of NUS in order to reduce the current deficit of £500,000 in the NUS budget.
Zena Awad, Socialist Students national co-ordinator
Unfortunately, Kat Fletcher, recently elected as a supposedly left-wing president of the NUS, (the Campaign for Free Education, CFE, candidate) actually moved the proposal herself and called for support for the cuts!
This conference has come at a time when the government is carrying out its own cuts in the colleges and universities. The NUS leadership has failed time and time again to wage a mass campaign against these cuts. Now, with the support of CFE and Labour Left students, it has got its own cuts agreed at the conference, despite opposition from the left, including Socialist Students.
Socialist Students had the biggest delegation and were the only visible force on the left at the conference. We were the only ones to argue for more public funding for universities and local Student Unions. This is the only way to deal with the huge deficit problem and at the same time transform this union.
Socialist Students have been calling and building for a mass campaign of direct action against all attacks on our education rights, while taking part in and fighting to transform the NUS into a democratic, fighting union.
The election of Kat Fletcher was seen as a victory for the left and an opportunity to begin to achieve this. If the union was led by genuine campaigners it would be an enormously powerful force, drawing hundreds of thousands of students into activity - particularly if it linked up with workers in the education sector against cuts and privatisation.
NUS democracy needs to be expanded and developed on a regional and national level, not cut, if it is to involve more students in its structures. The motion proposed by the NEC will seriously curtail democracy, which is central to integrating students into the national union.
These attacks will discourage student participation even further. This is especially the case with the FE colleges whose sector conferences are now being cut. The size of the delegation to NUS annual conference is being reduced and the number of elected positions onto the National Executive, including the 'block of twelve', is facing a review over its size.
The 'block of twelve' is the only body on the NEC which has elected part-time officers and has therefore a crucial role to play in representing students' interests as it is more in touch with student life. Kat Fletcher built her profile as part of the 'block of twelve', but now she is in favour of reviewing its size.
Socialist Students will carry on opposing any attacks on the democratic structures of NUS. The supposed justification, that there is shortage of money to fund these structures, should be opposed with the argument that NUS represents over a million students and that the existing costs for students' representation are not excessive.
What is needed is a campaign to fight for extra money for Student Unions at a local level while campaigning nationally for decent public funding into Higher and Further Education.
In The Socialist 26 June 2004:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party features