NUS HAS BEGUN TO roll out its new discount card: TOTUM. Not to be confused with the sports supplement, it is described in advertising as “the NUS extra card evolved”. It is supposed to have “all the same great discounts and offers as the NUS extra we know and love, but with additional features and functionality loaded into a mobile app”.
While technically it is “the new name for the NUS extra card”, and “brings you over 200 UK student discounts”, the site also states that it comes with “one-year free ISIC, unlocking over 42 000 international discounts”. While generally a University ID can be used as its own free international student identity card, the ISIC certification gives the TOTUM cards extra in the way of discounts. As with an NUS Extra card, students are able to pay for a one, two, or three-year contract in order to receive reductions across stores nationwide, however, there are meant to be local offers specific to a student’s city and university involved. The prices for TOTUM cards range from £12 to £32 and also include international deals for travel through STA and other companies. There are also optional add-ons, such as subscriptions to TOTUM Gourmet Society, where you pay a yearly fee for an extra discount card that enables meal discounts at various restaurant chains.
Similarly to the NUS Extra card, the students will be able to access discounts at Co-op (Hull Road or otherwise), National Express, and ASOS among other retailers, yet the local offers are what concern some York students. Many voted for current Activities Officer, Finn Judge, based on the promise of discount cards for ratified YUSU society committees – a manifesto point touted in previous years by previous sabbatical officers, to no avail.
A Literature student said “While it’s not the only reason I voted for Finn, it would have been nice to be rewarded as someone who has been on the committee for several societies at York. Music Soc, LitSoc and others have already created their own local discounts in the past and it’s been York specific. How will the NUS know what we want within York? “They have to sort this out for hundreds of thousands of people. They won’t know how to get deals with Flares or Gatehouse Coffee, something we can and have managed to do independently, on a local level. Why can’t we have both?”
Dissatisfaction was also echoed by the York Tories who were handing out leaflets at Freshers’ Fair. Their gripe, however, is on the national stage rather than the local one. It advises people to “Save £12” (the price of a one-year card) and also tells students to boycott the NUS, calling it “undemocratic, un-accountable and (frankly) embarrassing”. The flyers suggest using UNiDAYS, a free service, instead.
Unlike other students concerned for their promised discount cards, however, those distributing the leaflets linked TOTUM with a widening anti-NUS sentiment felt on campuses across the UK. They also asked whether the leaflet’s recipients are “happy funding an NUS that… charges [YUSU] a five-figure fee every year”, “has a conference so dysfunctional it ended up occupying itself” and “whose LGBT campaign claims gay men ‘don’t face oppression’”, among other accusations.
As “the only student discount platform endorsed by NUS”, it offers anyone who enters a business partnership with them “engagement and exposure to the UK student market, including exposure across 550 students’ union campuses as well as access to the student market via our digital channels, both on and off campus”. Nouse asked YUSU Student Activities Officer Finn Judge whether he was pleased about TOTUM or resented its infringement upon one of his manifesto points. He released the follow-ing statement: “Over the summer I met with NUS figures to discuss plans for TOTUM. There’s clearly a lot of potential for not just widening the student discount offer, but promoting student-led events and groups in really innovative ways.
“TOTUM offers national discounts and can be populated with local offers – a functionality we haven’t yet activated. YUSU makes an income from TOTUM card sales, so if it works, that will be great for our members and student groups. If it doesn’t work, we will consider our own alternative.”