By Ricki Hewitt
In recent days, students at Lincoln and Newcastle have voted to disaffiliate, while Exeter chose to stay. Several more universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Hull, Warwick and Loughborough, have referenda looming. The NUS represent about seven million students via 569 student unions in higher and further education, so this wave of disaffiliation campaigns doesn’t represent an existential crisis, but it is instead an unprecedented challenge to its credibility. The NUS must therefore rebuild its trust and reputation with its membership and the wider student population.
In a historic vote, the students of the University of Surrey voted to Leave the National Union of Students, a decision that has been coined NUeXIT with the results coming in at 52% to 48%, at a time when national lobbying and coming together as a national movement of students couldn’t be more important.
Throughout this election campaign we have heard Mrs May announce the 1% cap on pay for NHS and public-sector workers will continue for another year. This means that pay for nurses and other healthcare staff will lag the cost of living for the sixth year in a row; this cap affects applications and students who work in part-time care roles to help support their living costs.
Figures from the university admission service UCAS show that the number of people applying to study nursing has fallen by 23% from last year, and the number of mature students has dropped by more than a quarter. The government’s choice to scrap NHS bursaries and charge fees to nursing students was wholly irresponsible, and removing this funding has caused an extra 10,000 training places to be lost.
Nurses therefore need a national union to represent them, and so do students; they need a body to lobby the government on a change in renting rules, introducing a ban on letting agents charging fees to students and to fight for a return of the NHS bursary. These are national issues that affect students across the UK. We need to be part of the discussion and part of the movement.
The onerous will now be on our Union to show that it can work on behalf of Surrey students, not only locally, but on issues that affect students all across the country; it has to stand up for its students, and lobby the government on the issues that affect us all.