The Norwich Radical was born in the student movement, and we continue to be an active part within it. We recognise that while official structures are not the sum total of the movement, they play an undeniably important part and to understand the political consciousness of the student movement, you need to, in part, look at the National Union of Students. As we move into election season for the new NUS President, Vice Presidents and National Executive Council, we contacted all candidates in those elections and offered them the space to write about their election campaigns, why they are standing and their vision for NUS.
By Kira Cox
I’m currently in my first term of being the President at Liverpool Hope Students’ Union (but I was recently re-elected for a second!) Before I became a sabbatical officer I, like many students, perceived NUS as being nothing more than a discount card which got me half price Spotify and a free cheeseburger from McDonalds – this is a rhetoric that I want to change.
Most of the people reading this have probably never heard of Liverpool Hope University because it’s TINY. Our Students’ Union is run by just 3 sabbatical officers and 3 members of staff! I ran to be a sabbatical officer at Hope SU because I had a vision for the future of it, now I have a vision for what I want NUS to be; Relevant, Representative & Realistic.
I feel like the only way I can make this happen is by putting myself forward, getting myself in the room. We might be a tiny union, but we’ve got a big voice. This is why I’m standing for Block of 15.
My “NUS Journey” started at SU’s 15 in Bolton, and in all honesty it was an overwhelming experience. I understand that there’s going to be a difference in politics in what is essentially a political organisation, but the way they manifested themselves at this event was enough to put anyone off ever getting involved in NUS. I however, have always been stubborn, as my mother would tell you, so I stuck it out and threw myself into understanding what a “National Union of Students” which has 550 members, and represents 7 million students really meant, and how it worked. As part of this I started talking to Richard Brooks (current NUS VPUD) who I found to be extremely motivating. His passion, drive and enthusiasm to make change happen came across in every single interaction I had with him over the 2 days at SUs 15, and if that hadn’t been the case, I’d probably still refer to NUS as my discount card and I certainly wouldn’t be standing for Block of 15. (So cheers Richard!)
In August 2015 I attended Lead & Change, a huge part of NUS’ summer training for officers; this is where I really began to gain an insight into NUS and the people involved. It was at Lead & Change when I was first introduced to the wonderful Megan Dunn, someone who has continued to be a source of inspiration to me throughout the year, she has worked so incredibly hard to make sure that NUS is relevant to its members and without having the conversations I had with her at Lead & Change there would be absolutely no way I’d be writing this article now, she reconfirmed what Richard had shown me in July, that NUS was for everyone, 550 Students’ Unions and 7 million students, and the people to make that apparent were standing right in that room.
After such a wonderful experience at Lead & Change I volunteered myself to sit on the Union Development Direction & Oversight Board for NUS, to continue learning about what NUS meant and how I could make sure it was relatable to my students.
This year Liverpool Hope has really got behind NUS, making #CutTheCosts one of our biggest campaigns, supporting the full time officers however we can and sitting on boards and committees on a national level. I want to continue this to make sure small and specialist unions aren’t swamped by bigger ones.
I’ve done a lot of exciting things with NUS in the past year, from blowing up a giant pig (with what was effectively a hairdryer) to attending an All Party Parliamentary Group on student volunteering, to singing the Spice Girls on karaoke with Shakira Martin, and I’m even more excited to see how my journey with NUS is going to continue in the next year, hopefully with sitting on NEC being a big part of that journey!
I’m standing, because like my manifesto says, I want NUS to focus on strong and relevant campaigns, I want an NUS that is accountable and transparent to its members and I want an NUS that continues to make equality a priority.
At National Conference this year we have the opportunity to make a real difference. To forget factions and champion change – together.