YUSU defy NUS over boycott

  • 31 Students Unions sign a petition taking stance against AUT action
  • Armstrong opposes NUS stance after students suffer cancelled exams
  • AUT and Vice-Chancellors reach stand-still over latest pay negotiations

York Students’ Union has sparked outrage amongst AUT and NUS officials by withdrawing its support for the current lecturers boycott.

YUSU and 30 other SUs have been forced into opposition in the face of first and second year exam cancelations.

The NUS has reacted angrily to a letter signed by 21 SUs, including York, and are now in turmoil after a further 10 Unions have voiced their disapproval leaving just 30 in support of the NUS. The letter criticises the NUS’s support of the boycott, describing it as “highly inappropriate and unrepresentative of the vast majority of students”.

SU President Micky Armstrong (pictured right) said “I’m here to serve the students of York first…we are not dictated to by NUS”. He added, “we support [the AUT’s] campaign for better funding but we just cannot support action which is detrimental to students”.

In response to criticism from SUs including York, Bristol, and UCL, NUS President Kat Fletcher said “We respect SU autonomy and their right to determine their own policy. However it is interesting that students’ unions such as York tend to be those where the decision was taken in a meeting to which the NUS, lecturers unions and employers were not invited”.

She also defended NUS support of the boycott, claiming “we strongly believe we are representing the interests of all our members…If an adequate pay deal isn’t met, then we may find that less and less people will enter the lecturing profession, which will have a devastating impact on the quality of education”.

The split from NUS policy by YUSU has been seen by AUT representatives as criticism of them rather than the universities. National AUT Press Officer Dan Ashley said “there’s been a lot of propaganda coming out on the employers’ side” and suggested that SUs focus the blame on the senior management, rather than teaching fellows, adding that the best way to stop the boycott was to target protests at the Universities and Employers Association, the negotiating body for Vice-Chancellors.

Dr Simon Parker (pictured left), who has been at the forefront of the boycott in York, said “the Students’ Union should be concentrating its attack on the university management…they are causing the disruption”.

However, SUs in opposition disagree, stating in the letter to the AUT that “the assessment boycott is “undermining many years of close relations between lecturers and students. It makes it clear that you see institutions, not lecturers, as responsible for students’ education.”
The letter adds “We cannot support an action which both creates undue stress for them during this vital time of year and possibly threatens them with the possibility of not graduating.”


  1. Absolutely agree with YUSU – the strike’s affecting exams at Queen’s University, Belfast as well and in 3rd year now I really don’t have time for listening to lecturers mope about how poorly paid they are – even if I were to agree with them on that, there’s no excuse for holding students hostage by refusing to set and mark exams which for many of us form the culmination of our formal academic education.


  2. Whatever happened to some solidarity?
    As anybody ever involved in a employer-union dispute will tell you, they key to resolving the issue when demands are reasonable ( Blair did when he was justifying fees http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/speeches/show.asp?sp=63 ) is pressure – the more pressure is applied to the employers, the quicker they concede.

    The action YUSU and its peers are taking massivley undermines this – by breaking ranks they reduce the pressure on the VC’s, who can then turn around and say to the lecturers ‘The Students are against you!’. YUSU suggests they are looking after our interests as students by breaking rank, but the fact is if a united front had been presented to the VC’s and supportive action offered by all student unions this may well have already been settled – at the very least it would be settled more quickly. Surely *that* is in student’s best interests?

    Perhaps if our union spent less time desperatley trying not to be a Union (‘Senators’…ugh. represent our interests, don’t play at being our parliament) and devoted its energies to assisting the lecturers (who we have much more in common with than the VC – whose salary is outrageous yet never mentioned) and some actual political activity (gasp!) beyoned putting up posters then we wouldn’t be seeing the marking process paralyzed and one amenity after another privatized or closed for no good reason by the VC.


  3. But what type of university are we going to end up with if the AUT action fails?