Recently the student union at Christ Church University has been host to a heated debate regarding whether as a union if they should remain part of or to leave the National Union of Students (NUS).

The referendum was called by all CCSU council members to determine whether they should remain a part of NUS. This vote came about after continuous growing discontent for the public body, its publicly broadcast financial troubles and after it was discovered that Christ Church students’ union had never participated in an affiliation vote in over 40 years.

The union’s presidents went head to head on the matter, with the president of wellbeing, Jaime Harris leading the remain campaign. He was met with opposition by the presidents of development, Becky Thompson and Jordan Howard.

CCSU should promote free and fair elections, the opposite of NUS

- Jordan Howard

After speaking with Jordan and reading the article he published for UNIfied  it was clear he had made his mind up and his arguments for voting no were clear and thought out. Lack of liberation for the LGBTQ+ campaign, their poor international agenda and the affiliation cost that CCSU pays to be a member of NUS were just a few of the reasons he was saying no to NUS.

A banner hung on Christ Church campus

Another firm backer for the exit campaign was newly voted development president, Becky Thomson. At the time of the referendum she was also running for the position of NUS delegate in order to represent CCSU at the NUS National Conference in Glasgow which will take place in April.

In a brief interview she said “I didn’t so much choose my stance as it was common sense once I researched what the NUS is and how it benefits, or rather doesn’t benefit CCSU”.

As it currently stands, the NUS is £5 million in debt (£3 million NUS and group wide of £5 million deficit). Many of the unions around the country that are affiliated have been left feeling mislead by the organisation. A statement from the Union of University of the West of England said that they will not, as some within the NUS have said: “spend itself out of the crisis”.

This is just bad economics and will simply harm any union that follows suit.

- UWE Spokesperson

List of unions not associated with NUS (2019):

    • Cardiff Met SU
    • Dundee University Students Association
    • Glasgow University Students’ Representative Council
    • Glasgow University Union
    • Queen Margret Union
    • Imperial College Union
    • University of Essex Students’ Union
    • University of Southampton Students’ Union
    • University of St Andrews Students’ Association
    • Newcastle University Students’ Union
    • Hull University Union
    • Loughborough University Students’ Union
    • University of Surrey Students’ Association
    • University of Plymouth Students’ Union

In an interview with Jordan Howard from CCSU, he said that affiliation with NUS so far has only harmed the union’s finances. CCSU pays around £24,000 to be affiliated with CCSU with all costs and rebates he claims that “we stand to lose between £15-20,000 this year” alone.
He also says that due to Christ-Churches partnership with NUS means that as a university we cannot engage in any sponsorships with their competitors, such as UNIDAYS.

Despite the very strongly lead ‘no’ campaign, CCSU’s very own Jaime Harris is fighting back with an equally compelling and well informed campaign to remain part of NUS.

Harris claims that the NUS is a great help to students and plays a significant support role in the midst of this “student mental health crisis”.

NUS is on the steering group directing the production of the University Mental Health Charter, which will set the standards of excellence in mental health services for students.

- Jamie Harris

Harris also laid out in detail how the NUS plays a critical role in providing more affordable housing and better rent prices for students living away from home.
In the NUS Accommodation Costs Survey 2018-19; it was found that the average rent in halls consumes a whopping 73% of the maximum amount of student loan a person can receive and that NUS ‘affordability criteria’ has now been broadly accepted as an industry standard for affordable student accommodation – so much so that it has been adopted into planning regulations for all new student accommodation being built in London. A big win on their part.
“NUS continuously lobbies and campaigns on your behalf to secure improvements for students across the country. With a collective voice, they have successfully lobbied to secure essential benefits such as student council tax exemptions and post-study work visas”.

“Students should not have to choose between heating and eating”

—Sara Coleridge

A large part of Howard and Thompson’s campaign was the financial loss experienced by CCSU, however the yes campaign actually counters this argument with its own, backed up by figures.
Harris claims that as 1 of 600+ members of CCSU are a part of NUS ‘buying power’, which in short means that CCSU has the ability to make items they sell cheaper and more accessible to students.

In his UNIfied article, Howard claimed that the NUS TOTUM card was a ‘massive failure’ as the union was only budgeted to make £10k from TOTUM cards and that this is a ‘massive shortfall from the £24k affiliation plus conference costs’.

However despite the criticisms the card received from the no campaign, Harris had nothing but positive things to say about the discount card. He claimed that in 2017-18 there was an estimated £103,000+ saved by students who purchased the card.

Another leading figure in the no campaign was Jake Williams who is a former president and currently the education officer for the union.
When asked about the TOTUM card he said:
“The TOTUM costs a student up to £32 for three years, however UNIDAYS and Student Beans offer the same discounts for free. The uni would lose a little bit of money, however we would gain an approximation of £20k more if we didn’t pay the NUS affiliation fee”.

Williams also believes that the NUS has not supported universities or colleges at all. NUS has given such a restriction in the services that they are supposed to provide to unions to support students.
A large part of the exit campaign was the financial difficulties that the NUS has found themselves in over recent years. With the student charity finding itself with a loss of £3.5 million loss over the past year, and having to slash a quarter of their work force.

In Harris’s yes campaign he openly knowledges that NUS are struggling at the moment however they are working on improving the future of the brand and that the NUS employee’s are working tirelessly to ‘shape it from the grass root up’.

“NUS has existed since 1922 and it has 600+ members. In turn they represent the voice of 7 million students (over 15, 200 here at Christ Church) and have represented issues that matter to you”.

Despite both parties making such good arguments and leading very successful campaigns, the entire election and its results were made null and completely voided due to a staff members fault.

The investigation is currently ongoing.