Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 20 November 2004

NUS extraordinary conference

Defend democracy in the NUS

Opening the National Union of Students (NUS) extraordinary conference on 9 November, the chair called it "a festival of democracy". It was tongue in cheek but the irony echoed throughout the day.

James Kerr and Nathan Stevens, Richard Huish College Socialist Students

The aim of the right wing at this, the second conference called at short notice this year, was to massively curtail NUS democracy in the name of overcoming a deficit of 500,000.

The executive predicts that, without drastic action, the union will be bankrupt within six years. The proposed reforms seriously affect the structures and constitution of NUS and a truly democratic organisation would have ensured that all layers, factions and institutions were represented.

However, both conferences were a third of the size of the annual NUS conference with most universities and colleges being represented only by the full-time sabbatical officers, rather than democratically elected delegates.

At an earlier, organising meeting of the left in NUS, it was agreed to call for all the ratifications to be remitted to the larger national conference in April, where students would be democratically represented. But in another blow to democracy, it was decided that all the cuts were to be voted on as one package.

This allowed no debate on the individual issues involved in the reforms or for moving parts of motions or amending them. Moreover, many motions were ruled out of order because they had been titled 'motion' instead of 'amendment' - many submitted by ordinary students who did not have access to the new guidelines on motion submission.


Because of this undemocratic procedure, all the cuts were voted through with a two-thirds majority, allowing them to become constitutional reforms. NUS president Kat Fletcher, originally elected on a socialist ticket, campaigned for these cuts and embraced members of the NEC who were clearly relieved that she had moved their motion attacking the democratic structures. Reactions among the delegates were mixed - some were talking of their union disaffiliating from NUS, others gave Fletcher a rousing standing ovation.

Socialist Students had a significant number of delegates and made a good intervention into the conference. With a unified approach, the Left opposed the cuts to the democratic structures, called for the right to debate the different issues separately and opposed the lack of time given to build for a representative conference. However, it was only Socialist Students who put forward an alternative position to solving the financial difficulties in the union.

We called for funds to be raised through actively campaigning students unions on the ground, and a national campaign for decent public funding into our educational institutions. We also campaign for students to link with workers in the struggle against brutal cuts on all public services and for a one-day education shutdown to build far- reaching campaigns against fees and for a living grant.

As delegates filed out of the hall, the chair sang about being proud to be a Tory - a fitting end to the day. With millions of members and natural communities to build in, NUS should be one of the most powerful and influential organisations in this country. However, many students feel the union has been reduced to a talking shop for sabbatical officers and a breeding ground for future MPs.

For NUS to truly serve the interests of its members it must be built on a left programme, as a campaigning and democratic organisation which could defeat cuts and fees and create opportunities for more working class people to attend university.

Conference 20 November

Socialist Students members are coming to London from all over England and Wales to ISR and Socialist Student conference on 20 November.

This will be an inspiring event with more than 30 Socialist Students societies represented on the day.

NUS president Kat Fletcher will be coming to debate the strategy to defeat tuition fees and the need to build an active campaign on the ground, linking up with workers and trade unions on our campuses.

NUS Wales conference

National Union of Students Wales (NUSW) winter conference discussed issues including higher education funding in Wales; the delays in receiving loans for many students this year and for greater accountability of NUSW sabbatical officers to local students' unions.

Sheila Caffrey, Swansea Socialist Students

The most controversial motion called for the Women's officer to be replaced by an Equal Opportunities officer, to be elected by all delegates at spring conference (the Women's officer is elected by women only due to the autonomy of the women's campaign). The motion was defeated.

In the discussion on education funding, it was argued that if the Welsh Assembly introduces top-up fees for English students studying in Wales, NUSW should support this as long as Welsh students do not have to pay for studying either in Wales or England.

I argued that education should be a right and that NUSW should oppose all tuition fees for all students, whether Welsh or not - this was agreed.

At the spring conference, Socialist Students are planning to put pressure on NUSW to build a bigger campaign against the top-up fees. Having bits of policy and one demonstration is unlikely to defeat the fees and force the reintroduction of a living grant. Instead we need to continue to campaign in local schools, colleges and universities to build a larger and more effective campaign to counter all attacks on education.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 20 November 2004:

The bloody cost of war

Ireland: Socialist Party MP attacks Irish Government

Colin Powell - a dodgy dove

Socialist Party campaigns

Come to ISR conference

Pensions: "Unity in action" call

Childcare plans ignore real needs

NUS extraordinary conference

International socialist news and analysis

Palestinians mourn Arafat but struggle for liberation will continue

Imperialism in new occupation

Socialist Party workplace news

UNISON elections - nominate Roger Bannister

Protecting jobs in outsourcing deal

Join the Jaguar demo

Agenda for Change ballot masks discontent


Home   |   The Socialist 20 November 2004   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleFight for free education

triangleNUS leadership: Blairites supported by establishment


triangleCardiff Socialist Students confront 'Parasite' Jacob Rees-Mogg

triangleLeeds Socialist Students marks 'International Safe Abortion Day'

triangleFreshers week campaigning reports

triangleGoldsmiths Socialist Students & South London Socialist Party: Capitalism in Crisis - How do we fight back?

Socialist Students:

triangleSupporting the general strike in Catalonia

triangleKings Socialist Students & North London Socialist Party: Capitalism in Crisis - How do we fight back?

triangleFight university's 'sackers' charter'


triangleTower Hamlets Socialist Party: "You can't have capitalism without racism" (Malcolm X)

triangleTower Hamlets Socialist Party: Capitalism in Crisis - is Corbyn the answer?


triangleUniversity of Leeds workers walk out

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Justice for Tube cleaners demo



Salford Unison condemns pay cuts


Royal Mail

CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike



Carlisle NHS campaigners hand in petition to MP



Don't wreck our rec! Campaigning to save green space in Standish



No more fire deaths - ensure safety now!



Cardiff Socialist Students confront 'Parasite' Jacob Rees-Mogg


John McDonnell

Manchester rally discussed unionisation and nationalisation



Join the Orgreave Halloween rally



Workplace news in brief


Democratic rights

Who's watching who?: The fight for justice, trade union and democratic rights


Northern Ireland

Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs



Too much to cross the Mersey


Royal Mail

Set for national strike action



Supporting the general strike in Catalonia

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle16 Oct Teesside Socialist Party: After the party conferences

triangle17 Oct London: TUC lobby & rally; and London march

triangle18 Oct Warrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

triangle18 Oct Hackney Socialist Party: 100 years ago - the Bolshevik-led revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice