Socialist Worker

Silencing debate in the National Union of Students

by Rob Owen, NUS executive (personal capacity)
Issue No. 2073

On Tuesday of last week – the day after hundreds of student activists descended on parliament – the National Union of Students (NUS) leadership revealed its 80 page long attack on its democratic structures to the national executive.

The evolution of NUS into a “professional lobby” group has been a long time coming, but the current attack would finally destroy our national union.

The “white paper on the governance of NUS” proposes a series of massive attacks on democracy, including the abolition of an elected executive and directly elected annual conference.

In their place will be an annual congress as “a celebration of the year” with space for limited debates and delegations selected by local unions. There will also be a part elected, part external board to run the organisation and a broader (but less powerful) senate to debate policy and steer the full time officers.

Significantly all part time officers – traditionally representing political and other minorities – will be scrapped in favour of increasing the power and wages of the full time vice presidents and staff.

Without an executive the remaining officers will only be accountable to the unelected board between congresses.

The white paper was put to a vote at the national executive on Tuesday less than two weeks after its publication, with a number of alterations. Only two out of 27 have put themselves clearly in opposition and a call has been added for an emergency conference to rubber stamp the changes.

Student activists must oppose all attempts by their unions to call for such a conference and demand the debate goes to a democratic annual conference. Whereever the debate takes place we must be prepared to get as many activists as possible delegated to fight for a democratic, campaigning union.

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Article information

Tue 16 Oct 2007, 18:12 BST
Issue No. 2073
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