In the run up to the National Conference of the National Union of Students, we have offered all candidates for President, Vice President, and Block of 15 the opportunity to write articles for us explaining their priorities, their manifesto and why delegates should support them and elect them to their respective roles. Each candidate is allowed between 600 and 1,000 words, and we will publish each article in the order that we receive them.
by Richard Brooks
It’s been a strange old journey that’s meant that I’ve ended up running to be Vice-President Union Development of NUS. It’s the most exciting, exhiliarating and scary thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I feel really lucky to have been given the opportunity to put my ideas out there. I come from a working class family in the south of England, was the first person in my family to ever get a chance to go to University. I was never going to get involved in politics, period, let alone student politics. I wanted to come to uni, have a good time and be earn opportunities my mum – who raised 4 of us by herself – didn’t have a have to achieve. I got involved, like many of us, through a chance, or one inspirational person. And when I realised that the voices of many were so much more powerful than one person ever could be, I got involved in student politics.
Let’s be clear here; the very existence of Students’ Unions are under attack. We’re in danger of becoming service providers, with our institutions holding our purse strings over our heads.
But there’s a problem with our movement – in the same way there’s a problem with our national politics. For too long, and too often, the conversation is dominated by the same faces, making the same tired old arguments. We have a disempowered movement, not one ready to take the fight forward. And we can’t fight for our rights in wider society, when we can’t get our own house in order. We can’t speak on behalf of 7 million members when we don’t have credible democratic structures. We are less effective at holding this and any Government to account when we’re not united as a movement. An Inaccessible NUS has led to a fractured movement.
Let’s be clear here; the very existence of Students’ Unions are under attack. We’re in danger of becoming service providers, with our institutions holding our purse strings over our heads. Unions, with archaic structures that match NUS’, struggling for relevance. We have officers – the life and blood of this movement – feeling underrepresented and pushed aside. So here’s what I’m proposing:
- Begin a fundamental Governance review of how NUS makes decisions, and who for. We know our governance isn’t working, so let’s do something about it. I will bring back a radical vision for conference 2016.
- Deliver a progressive affiliation fee model for students’ unions so that you know exactly where your money goes, and what it’s paying for.
- Transform officer training, implementing a full year of support from in house induction through to leaving the movement, relevant to all nations.
- Deliver democracy training in your unions, for staff and officers, providing unions with resources to engage all their students, led by Liberation groups and our values Develop a quality mark outside of NSS to show our social impact, and our value to the wider community, for use across FE and HE.
There’s only a few days left before Conference, and I think there’s a really clear choice. One where NUS continues, undeterred from its current path of being less and less relevant to it’s members, or where we do something a bit bold, a bit radical. We can say that we don’t think it’s good enough anymore that sports and societies aren’t on the agenda. We can say that we will fix the way we work with our movement and we can say that we don’t have work like this anymore. We can change NUS, and we can change the world. I hope that you’ve liked what I’ve had to say, and if you’re interested in learning more, please do contact me via facebook or like the page!
To read all candidates’ articles click here