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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 April 2010

Campaign needed against fees and cuts

The National Union of Students conference took place on 13-15 April against the backdrop of the threat of increased tuition fees and huge cuts in higher education. There have been large protests and occupations recently in some universities, against the threat of cuts, and many students are getting involved in anti cuts and fees campaigns.

However this fighting mood which is spreading across campuses was only dimly reflected at a conference which is now dominated by a pro-Labour right wing bureaucracy in the leadership of NUS.

In previous years, NUS conference has been a gathering of around 1,000 students but this year there were only 600 delegates, with the majority being full time student union officers.

The right wing won the majority of motions and won large majorities in the elections to the national executive (NEC). Not all the results are known at the time of writing but it is likely that the left's representation has decreased.

However there were a significant minority of delegates open to ideas put forward by Socialist Students, particularly from the further education sector. An anti cuts and fees fringe meeting organised by Newcastle Free Education Network attracted 30 delegates.

The right wing did not get their way on everything. They had to make vague promises about calling action after the fees review has reported. They put forward a motion promising a national demonstration "at the appropriate juncture" if the review board recommends an increase in fees. And the left was able to win a motion calling for support from student unions for industrial action in defence of jobs and education by trade unions like the UCU.

A motion was put forward by the leadership without discussion in many delegations or on the NEC. It merges NUS with its corporate arm NUSSL (which runs bars and shops in student unions) and with a right wing management association AMSU. AMSU organises "management teams" in local student unions who often act as a pro university management bureaucratic obstacle to campaigning. Representatives from NUSSL and AMSU will now have votes on the NUS executive.

Socialist Students activists will continue to fight for student unions to take up a campaigning strategy and organise mass action involving students and workers. The organisation of a mass campaign of demonstrations and student strikes on a local and national level in the aftermath of the fees review in the autumn is the most vital task confronting student activists. We will be discussing our work in NUS at our national meeting on 6 June.

Socialist Students NUS delegates

Socialist Students national meeting

6 June, London. 11am -5pm. Open to all Socialist Students activists. Contact for details

A vital new pamphlet for student activists: Our education under attack, Why a mass campaign is needed. A Socialist Students and Youth Fight for Jobs pamphlet. Price 1

Contact Socialist Students for bulk orders: 020 8558 7947
PO BOX 858 London E11 1YG

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In The Socialist 21 April 2010:

Stop these savage cuts: support the socialist alternative

Youth fight for jobs

Young people facing a fight for their future

National Union of Students conference: Campaign needed against fees and cuts

Socialist Party editorial

Left candidates excluded from media

LibDem Surge

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