NUS members have voted in favour of a whitepaper that will overhaul the organisation’s governance structure at Tuesday’s Extraordinary Conference.
After a day of debate in Leicester’s Athena Conference Centre, delegates from all affiliated unions across the UK moved to pass the document, which was written up by the current NUS National Executive Committee over the past eight months. The decision to embark on a process of reform was made at the NUS’s Annual Conference last April.
“I am delighted that NUS members have hosen to unite behind the new organisation, this is a major step towards creating a national union with a coherent, influential voice to stand up for their rights at such a crucial time for the sector,” said Gemma Tumelty, NUS President.
The organisation will now begin a radical overhaul of its major decision-making bodies, including the formation of a board of trustees. This is set to contain four ‘lay trustees’, who will be non-students with professional experience in areas such as law and business management. This body will be given the right of veto over any NUS Senate policies that they deem could impact the organisation’s legal or financial situation, a move that became a major point of contention at the conference.
“Change was always going to be difficult, but I think the right decision was made. The NUS needs constant reform and I believe these changes will strengthen it and facilitate wider participation. Our affiliation referendum showed that a significant proportion of students weren’t happy with the NUS and wanted to see changes,” said Anne-Marie Canning, YUSU President, and head of University of York’s 8-person delegation. The delegates were free to vote individually.
While the 2/3rd majority needed was comfortably achieved, the whitepaper was not without its detractors, with many students from a variety of unions speaking out against the lack of representation that they felt the new structure would bring.
“This is not the democratic overhaul that we are waiting for. I urge you to put the S back into NUS and vote against it,” said Aled Fisher, an LSE student who gave the closing speech against the proposals.
Other prominent critics included Rob Owen, NUS NEC member, who slammed the proposals as “more undemocratic and more difficult to understand.” Simon Gammon, a second-year member of the University of York delegation, said: “The review had so many holes in it. The conference exposed many of its failings and I would have preferred greater debate and a rethink of the major points before it was voted on”.