Student Unions need to tackle local issues

argues that before Student Unions can have any real national credibility they need to prove that they can solve issues at a local level

Photo Credit:  Matt Dinnery

Photo Credit: Matt Dinnery

Logging onto Facebook this morning I have another matter thrust upon me by YUSU, who want to resist the government’s plans to charge international students two hundred pounds to cover the NHS use they will more than likely receive. YUSU are calling it discriminatory and have a petition and webpage calling to lobby the government in a desperate attempt to stop this measure (see here).

First of all is two hundred pounds really enough to rant about? Okay it’s a reasonable sum for students to pay but international students are paying nearly twenty five thousand pounds a year for tuition. This then seems like a drop in the ocean and won’t in any way deter international students from coming to study in British Universities. Having said this we, as taxpayers, pay for our NHS treatment and as a nation we have built a mostly working welfare state- something that we should be proud of. In this sense we should be charging international students at least a little, to cover something of their potentially very large medical bill. How else are we expected to uphold the system? There’s a value that international students bring to the UK but there is also a value that the UK brings to these students. However if we were to apply this indirect benefit to the economy by not taxing, we’d quickly arrive upon the same stance of hard libertarians. Something I fail to see YUSU believing in.

However it was not the actual issue that annoyed me, nobody likes to pay more tax, it was the fact that YUSU once again were looking to address national problems instead of fixing those that actually relate to the majority of us here on campus. What happened to chasing localised matters? They need to stop with the referendums such as ‘YUSU should lobby the government to leave the EU’, which is quite frankly embarrassing. Even if they have the support of NUS in a student related policy, the government is simply not going to listen, the whole student representation at the moment on a national level is an absolute farce! The majority of students couldn’t care less what the NUS are rattling on about and I’m sure the government care even less. That’s not saying that there’s not a flaw here, of course students and the government should care, we should be trying to make our Unions more credible. Perhaps to do this we need to start small.

So YUSU need to pour their over enthusiastic, CV boosting positions of negligible influence into lobbying the University hierarchy to clean up the lake, wash the duck shit off of the paths and stop overcharging students for sometimes awful accommodation. YUSU can actively do something about these matters and this is where the little power they have, could actually churn out a result when working with those running the institution. Issues students actually care about, not self-indulgent campaigns they can pretend were grass root movements that they spear-headed.

Okay so I too can be criticised, I’m not actively involved. I will probably, deservedly, be accused of simply being a ‘hater’ embodying the unmotivated political student, no longer bothered about making a stand and climbing upon Nelson in Trafalgar Square gesturing a two-fingered F-you to the government. I’m just happy to watch the world unfold behind the keyboard of my computer and the screen of my phone, trusting my national government to facilitate my comfortable existence. As I’m sure many of you reading this are too.

Beyond this though, with YUSU ranking 79th out of 123 Universities surveyed on student satisfaction, they need to up their game.

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