YUSU rejects proposals to re-introduce NUS Democracy card

A proposal to allow voting on whether or not to re-introduce the NUS Democracy card were unanimously rejected by the YUSU Trustee board

A proposal to allow voting on whether or not to re-introduce the NUS Democracy card was unanimously rejected by the YUSU Trustee board on December 10.

Chris Northwood, a fourth-year Computer Science student who proposed the motion, which was referred to the Trustee board to decide if it would be allowed to be voted on at UGM, argued that the current NUS Extra card on offer is “value for money for some, but not every student at York”, and that students needed a “globally recognised” card that will provide sufficient proof of identification.

The motion under discussion urged YUSU to “immediately re-introduce NUS Democracy to students wishing to identify themselves as a student, but not wishing to take advantage of the discounts offered by NUS Extra.” Last year’s NUS affiliation referendum showed that student approval of the NUS is not universal at York. It is felt that the NUS Democracy card would be beneficial to students not wishing to pay an additional cost – YUSU last issued Union identity cards without cost in the academic year 2006/2007 – but the system now activates completely online.

A motion was passed to introduce Extra which now soon expires, but Northwood claims that “now we don’t have the power to either get rid of it, or even lessen its impact.”

YUSU President Tom Scott said that the Trustee Board’s “primary reason” for the decline of the motion was the cost of introducing the Democracy cards “versus what they’re actually useful for.” He felt that the “cost in staff time and effort of providing potentially thousands of cards – each of which the NUS would charge – could not be justified for providing a card whose only function here would be as a poor replacement for the university’s duck cards.” He said that the University cards “already function as student ID and allow entrance to NUS conferences.”

Northwood notes that the University of York cards are not nationally recognised and have no expiration dates, causing problems in particular for students when not in York, such as students on sandwich courses, visiting other towns and cities, and returning home for the holidays.

Matt Burton, YUSU’s Services and Finance Officer, was asked by Northwood if any figures were available to “back up his claim that reintroducing Democracy would severely damage the Union… but he had none.” Burton commented that the “Trustee Board voted against putting the motion forward to a UGM on the grounds of not being a good use of resources for the needs of the Union,” without providing financial information. He reiterated the problems of the card’s “impacts on the Union’s resources… and for what the cards purpose actually is, for taking part in democratic services.” It is reputed that YUSU make £18,000 from NUS Extra.

Currently, the NUS Extra card costs £10 to purchase, and offers a number of discounts at stores such as La Senza, Superdrug and McDonalds. However, its value for money has come under a degree of contention over the past few years. A Nouse investigation in 2006 revealed that the card was priced as high as £10 to alleviate NUS’ growing debt problem, which has developed from
years of mismanagement and unstable financial policies.

Haphazard communication with the companies supposedly offering discounts intensified the crisis, as many of the shops offering discounts admitted that they only needed proof of student identification to provide discounts.


  1. Stick an ‘officially NUS recognised!’ stamp on the York university card and we won’t have all this bloody trouble.

    The reason for the petition is that lots of cinemas etc take one look at the York card and laugh.

    Reply Report

  2. My understanding is that lots of other Universities do combine their University card with their NUS cards, hell, even having an expiration date on the York card would make it acceptable (whilst doing a sandwich course most problems I encountered with using my York card was the lack of an expiration date).

    However, there’s also this bigger issue and precedent set that we now have this trustee board that can stop any motion going to UGM (the democratic and sovereign body of the SU) if they decide it has a resource or financial impact to the union (and they don’t even have to have figures on how big an impact it’d be), and let’s face it, pretty much every motion has a resource impact – whether it’s forcing sabbs to spend time campaigning on an issue, or spending £50 buying a new golden duck.

    I wouldn’t be as annoyed if the motion fell at UGM, it’s the fact that it wasn’t even given a chance for students to have their say on it that really frustrates me.

    Reply Report

  3. Chris,

    Perhaps you could introduce a motion that affirms, in principle, the support by the YUSU membership for ‘democracy cards’?


    PS. Why is there no RSS feed for these comments?

    Reply Report

  4. The introduction of the Trustee board is a result of the forthcoming changes to charity law that will affect YUSU (and the GSA).

    One of the biggest problems that all Students’ Unions, as charities, face, is to strike a balance between the constraints of good financial management, and that of maintaining a democratic system of governance.

    Indeed, I suspect one of the reasons behind these law changes is due to the fact that so many Students’ Unions have ended up in significant trouble after over-prioritising the latter at the expense of the former.

    The only other way to deal with this, perhaps, would be to set some kind of limit on the amount of “resource or financial” impact that a motion might have to not be considered by the Trustee board? But that leads to an entirely new issue…

    Reply Report

  5. Tom: I agree, although obviously it’s difficult to predict the impact of such a change as reintroducing NUS Democracy cards (although we do have past figures from 06/07 when Extra and Democracy were both issued which I would still be very interested to see and compare to the following year when only Extra was issued). I suspect the impact isn’t as much as claimed – Democracy cards could be issued through the same channels as Extra cards as they were in previous years, and as the plain old NUS cards were).

    Reply Report

  6. Is the ‘cost’ the cost of the physical card itself? Or is there some kind of licensing fee payable to the NUS as well?

    Reply Report

  7. Unless I misunderstood the meeting, the actual cost of the NUS Democracy card was minimal (the NUS are charging 5.5 pence per card which is apparently the physical cost of producing them, fair enough – however the NUS did promise to keep them free for unions. There’s an interesting letter written by the President of Sheffield College’s Student Union: http://www.educationet.org/messageboard/posts/1175528211.html) and the costs being discussed at the meeting were primarily the cost of staffing for distributing these cards (why not use the same channels as NUS Extra, and once again a comparison of figures pre-Extra and post-Extra would be highly useful) and the cost of lost income from Extra cards.

    Reply Report

  8. If the cost of re-introducing the Democracy card is too great, because there would be no fee paid by students for it, how on earth did they manage before introducing the £10 charge for extra?! Clearly the NUS is still very much on financial thin ice following years of waste and excess and that is the real motive behind these sorts of decisions.

    However, I think the problem with York’s cards – which I have suffered from on numerous occasions when at home for the holidays – is one for the University to sort out rather than pursuing a solution via the NUS. Expiry dates would be dodgy because people withdraw from uni, or they take a sabbatical, or study abroad, or they only choose in third year to carry on for a fourth year.

    The real solution would be to do what – to my knowledge – most other uni’s do, which is to issue new cards every year. That would also mean that the face on the card might vaguely resemble its owner.

    Reply Report

  9. I suggest you guys look up what a democracy card is. Since our voting is all online there isn’t a need for one – what you guys are looking for is a recognised Student ID. Get NUS to affiliate the uni card and slap an expiration date on it, job done.

    Put through a UGM for that and you’ll get it sorted without too much difficulty. Getting annually re-issued cards would cost more but would solve this problem. Thanks for reading.

    Reply Report

  10. p.s. my point was that the cost was not an issue but rather there ISN’T ANY NEED FOR ONE.

    See my point?

    We don’t use voting slips any more so democracy cards are futile :)

    Reply Report

  11. Anon: The trustee board decided that introducing a nationally recognised identity card to the Union (in the form of NUS Democracy) is too damaging to finances and resources to let it go to a democratic vote. If it’s true of a free identity card in the form of NUS Democracy, surely this would be true of a free identity card regardless of the form, so the Trustee board would block all motions to introduce a free alternative to NUS Extra.

    The reason I proposed NUS Democracy as the form of the identity card is because the NUS brand is nationally recognised, the only other brand recognised anywhere near as much is the ISIC but that would incur even higher costs to the Union as the physical card costs are more like £6, rather than 5.5 pence.

    From the back of the NUS Democracy card:

    “This card is proof of your membership of your students’ union and the National Union of Students.”

    Seems pretty clear to me that identification is an important part of the NUS Democracy card.

    I’ve included the motion below for reference. From the very beginning I’ve made it clear that this is about identification, and that I propose NUS Democracy to be best identity card available to us.

    “A free, nationally recognised student card for York”


    * YUSU last issued Union identity cards without cost in the academic year 2006/2007 in the form of NUS Democracy cards alongside the NUS Extra scheme, before moving to complete online voting
    * University of York cards are not globally recognised and have no expiration dates, causing problems in particular for students when not in York (e.g., students on sandwich courses, visiting other towns and cities, and returning home for the holidays)
    * The recent NUS affiliation referendum showing that student approval of the NUS is not universal at York
    * The NUS Extra scheme no longer incorporates the ISIC identity scheme
    * In the year 2006/2007, the NUS lost £18,000 on the NUS Extra scheme


    * The NUS Extra card is value for money for some, but not every student at York
    * Students at the University of York want a nationally recognised identity card without necessarily paying for an NUS Extra discount card.


    * To immediately re-introduce NUS Democracy to students wishing to identify themselves as a student but not wishing to take advantage of the discounts offered by NUS Extra.

    Reply Report


    * The NUS Extra card is value for money for some, but not every student at York
    * Students at the University of York want a nationally recognised identity card without necessarily paying for an NUS Extra discount card.

    sorry, wasn’t this a motion introduced to a yusu body? why would the entire union collectively approve a motion that is focused primarily on the interests of students at one university? surely this just proves my point that the best solution would be one from within..

    Reply Report

  13. James: I’m not sure I’m following you. The NUS Democracy card still exists, it was just that in 2007 YUSU decided to withdraw it at York in favour of only selling discount cards and using the duck card for identity (which I believe is not an acceptable identity solution – the problems I had using my duck card whilst on sandwich placement was what prompted me to propose the motion).

    The motion, if approved by the trustee board, would have gone forward to vote at a YUSU UGM, not an NUS national conference or anything (I assume you meant the NUS by ‘entire union’). The NUS wouldn’t have to do anything, it’s a purely York related matter.

    Reply Report

  14. my bad – i thought the reintroduction of the democ card would require nus approval having been an nus decision to withdraw it – i’ll read things more closely next time!

    nevertheless, i still think it’s the university card that’s the problem – some places don’t even accept nus extra as valid id if they’re not one of the advertised discounters, then they don’t accept the york card because it’s “out of date”

    but as i said in my first comment there are problems with putting a 3-year period on the card, and branding it with an nus logo still doesn’t solve the time validity issue, therefore the best and only solution is for the uni to issue new cards every year like most others do… but of course, that comes at a cost

    Reply Report

  15. Well yeah, if we could get the University to do that it would have the same effect, however I thought that the best route to go down would be to through YUSU as I thought students could directly mandate them to do things via a UGM vote (how wrong I was – I didn’t realise you had to get through both Rules and Regulations and the Trustee board committees) first, whereas going down the University route the most we could do is ask YUSU to put pressure on the University with no guaranteed results (I had more faith in YUSU than the University for getting stuff done).

    It seems the way to go now is to attempt to propose a motion to mandate YUSU to campaign the University to move the duck card into a more acceptable form of ID (but then again the Trustee board may decide that such an ID would interfere with NUS Extra and therefore block the motion again, *sigh*)

    Reply Report

  16. Who are this mysterious trustee board? And how does one go about standing for election / voting for who sits on it?

    Reply Report

  17. The trustee board consists of the 6 sabbaticals, 3 external trustees (who are not yet appointed, I believe the new Chief Exec of YUSU will be one of them), and 3 student trustees – Jason Rose, Anuj Kotecha and Zoe Stones. They were voted in earlier this term in the YUSU by-elections and from what I understand hold their posts for 2 years: http://www.nouse.co.uk/2008/11/14/new-yusu-officers-elected/.

    Reply Report

  18. Three things –

    Firstly, this is a YUSU decision, not a case of NUS imposing anything on York. So don’t blame NUS.

    Secondly, in my first year (05-06) Nat Thwaites-McGowan and Micky Armstrong proposed a motion to UGM to change YUSU policy form opposition to NUS Extra cards, to support for their introduction. It passed 200 – 97 and is still active policy.

    That policy can be read here:


    Make of the current policy what you will.

    Finally, Extra cards were not so much introduced to save the NUS financially after “years of waste”, as to provide a reliable stream of income to students’ unions, some of which had faced serious financial problems. That is why £4 from each sale goes directly to the students’ union. Apparently, in the ’90s, students unions were rolling in cash and spent it all on bigger and better (and sometimes badly thought through) campus bars and nightclubs. But over the last 10 years, students have been drinking less in campus bars largely thanks to increased alcohol prices and a trend to buy drinks from supermarkets and drink them at home / in halls. This led to big problems for many SUs, and at least one went bankrupt. (Somewhere like Northumbria?) NUS Extra, though billed as supporting NUS finances, was in large part about providing an additional steady income source for SUs, ensuring they weren’t too dependent on bar income.

    Reply Report

  19. The Trustee Board decision was not that it was too costly but that it was pointless…that an NUS democracy card has no advantages to it whatsoever – that it is solely used as a voting card and we have no need for it any more. You are PAYING for NOTHING. That’s the point!

    Reply Report

  20. Hmmm….who could that anon possibly be? Only a trustee could post definitively why the the trustees made a decision…could it possibly be trustee and person who posted three comments all at the same time Jason Rose….?!! lol.

    Reply Report

  21. > that it is solely used as a voting card and we have no need for it any more

    The Democracy card itself clearly states that it is also to be used to prove membership (it actually says this on the back of the card) and the motion was about introducing an identity card, of which the Democracy card does just as well as the duck card, but with the added benefit of being a nationally recognised brand. Places that wouldn’t accept my York card whilst I was on placement *would* accept a Democracy card for proof of student ID (with a strategically placed finger covering the expiry date). The trustee board decision has robbed those students at the University of York who are on sandwich courses, placements, etc, from being able to benefit from a nationally recognisable identity card without having to purchase a discount card.

    The motion (which should be obvious to everyone who reads it in my comment above) never mentioned reintroducing the Democracy card for voting purposes, just for identity purposes.

    I was at the trustee board meeting; the debate largely centred around the costs (specifically the resource costs) of reintroducing the Democracy card, the purpose was only mentioned briefly, because the Trustee board has presumably read the motion and saw it was about reintroducing the card for identity purposes.

    Reply Report

  22. Surely the most simple and effective resolution would be to work with the Uni’ to redesign the University ‘duck’ card.

    As you rightly point out, NUS approval is not universal at York. As such, the Uni card presents the best means of offering Students, student ID while not necessarily identifying them with, or helping to finance, the NUS.

    The current Uni Cards are not fit for purpose as ID. But this can easily be changed.

    An NUS logo would verify it is a legitamet Student card without having to make them part of the actual Union, while a course expiration date will add accuracy to identify the person as a student. Futher, the card should include your date of birth (to prove you are over 18, for instance).

    Making the card renewable annually for a small charge (50p – if NUS card costs 5.5p surely 50p would cover it?) would then allow the card to remain accurate to the holders current student status, without leaving the University out of pocket.

    You are right, NUS Extra and the York Uni cards aren’t appropriate Student ID, while the NUS card being the main choice from the Union forces students to join.

    A better University card seems to me to be the best, and easiest, resolution to this matter.

    Reply Report

  23. 22 Dec ’08 at 2:46 am

    The Return of Anonymous Massive

    Well punch me in the face and call me Dan Taylor, I’m actually agreeing with Joe Rankin!

    Reply Report

  24. I agree with most of what you are saying Joe as reforming the ‘duck’ card is definitely the way forward but one point confuses me…

    You say that you don’t want a student ID that ‘identifies’ the stduent with the NUS yet your solution is to put the NUS logo on the card.

    Also, what would happen if YUSU were to leave the NUS? We wouldn’t be able to use the logo. Also if any student were to decline YUSU membership, they would not be entitled to use the NUS logo on their card.

    Working with the uni AND local/national retailers is definitely the best route to take.

    Reply Report

  25. I honestly don’t believe working with local/national retailers is the most effective route. The problem of students on placements not having their cards accepted by local retailers would still exist, unless we’re expecting YUSU to liase with local retailers in Bristol, Abingdon, Cambridge, Winchester, etc (and that’s just where Computer Science sandwich courses are).

    For better or for worse YUSU is part of the NUS, so surely it makes sense to take advantage of our membership to the NUS and the nationally recognised brand the NUS has.

    Reply Report

  26. To clarify my point, with regard to the NUS logo being used on a reformed Uni ‘duck’ card:

    I believe as a student, like it or not, you are unable to get away from NUS association. The fact is, the NUS is the most recognised organisation associated with students. As such, whether or not you’re actually a member, to a large majority of people the NUS stands for the student body of Britain.

    By having the logo on the ‘duck’ card, I do not mean to say that this would make a holder a de facto member of the NUS.

    For all intents and purposes, the use of this logo would merely be to legitamise the ‘duck’ card to those least aware of students lives. Indeed, you could even get small print somewhere stating the card is recognised by the NUS as a real form of Identification for students, but does not mean the holder is a membere of the Union.

    This would improve the validity issue of the ‘duck’ card and, I believe, offer those not wanting to associate with the NUS an alternative student ID to their recognised cards.

    Equally, as has been pointed out, it would probably also help holders gain access to the discounts actual NUS cards supposedly offeer you. Obviously, this isn’t what the NUS or YUSU would want; preferring Students get the £10 Extra card, but I imagine it would happen.

    That’s not the reason I would include the NUS logo somewhere on an improved ‘duck’ card.

    It’s purely as a means of validating what is – a present – an easily rejected form of Student ID.

    Obviously, having the NUS logo prevents total disassociation from the organisation. However, until anyone can suggest an alternative organisation that would equally validate a student ID card, I believe including the NUS logo is the best option.

    Reply Report

  27. “Only a trustee could post definitively why the the trustees made a decision…could it possibly be trustee and person who posted three comments all at the same time Jason Rose….?!! lol.”

    People should know by now my distaste for anonymous posting – and since the minutes are open and not closed for this specific issue, theoretically any student is allowed to view them. I don’t know what they say because I haven’t looked them up but I’m sure they are detailed enough to show the various points that were made in discussion. Other than that it’s a little pointless what’s said because the decision has already been made :P

    Thanks for not pretending to be me though, Jose Rason ;)

    Reply Report

  28. 28 Dec ’08 at 5:46 pm

    Michael R.T.R. Child

    People should to realise that the cost of implementing this also includes the potential losses made from people switching back from NUS Extra to the Democracy Card.

    Furthermore… the Trustee board has no *explicit* power to veto a motion before it is proposed to a General Meeting. They also have a responsibility to “promote the interests of its membership in those economic, social and welfare issues which have an effect on education or upon the position of its membership in society”. Proposals for motions affecting resources must be submitted to the Trustee Board, but it is the Rules and Revisions Committee that decide their suitability and they (depending on your interpretation) may only reject motions based on their constitutionality and legality.

    If questions are raised as to the interpretation of the relevant bits of constitution then it is also the Rules and Revisions Committee’s job to interpret the constitution in the first instance.

    Article 5.
    Article 12.3.
    Schedule 1.5.2.
    Schedule 1.5.4.
    Schedule 10.13.1
    Article 26.1.

    Reply Report

  29. 28 Dec ’08 at 5:47 pm

    Michael R.T.R. Child

    The Trustee Board potentially acted illegally in blocking this motion from being proposed.

    Reply Report

  30. Rules and Revisions were the ones that stopped it going to UGM in autumn term. The Trustee Board simply stopped it coming up at the next one as well. It’s not illegal..!

    Reply Report

Leave a comment

Please note our disclaimer relating to comments submitted. Please do not post pretending to be another person. Nouse is not responsible for user-submitted content.