For three days from the 8th April students across the UK gathered in Liverpool for the annual policy making conference of the National Union of students. After three days of controversial debates, exciting elections and stirring speeches Cardiff’s NUS Delegates explain here their impressions of conference and the priorities conference set for the year ahead.
Aled Crow: Aside from the great speeches made by candidates and delegates alike, my main highlights would include the motions on fair representation and homes fit for study. I’m glad these motions passed as they will help solve issues faced by many students on our campus.
One of the more controversial motions debated was the creation of a NUS London full-time officer role. At first, the initial speech for the motion was convincing, with one point stating that London has specific needs and is home to over 800,000 students. But as the debate progressed, the case grew stronger against the motion; highlighting the fact that it is already a well-represented area, consisting of a council, executive, and various other part-time officer roles. The debate ended with the reality that funding would be re-distributed from the Nations (Wales, Scotland and USI) to support it, eventually causing the motion to fall. Overall, the conference was a great experience, both first and second time around, and I would recommend students to run for a delegate position in the next election!
Kate Delaney: Having only just got into the world of student politics, getting elected as a delegate for the NUS National Conference was extremely exciting and daunting at the same time, but it was one of the most inspiring events I’ve ever been to. The Fair Representation motion was extremely emotional for me. It really was something which I will look back on and be proud that I was one of those who voted in favour for it, especially after its failure to pass the previous year. The Society and Citizenship VP elections proved that you should never underestimate the underdog, as Piers Telemacque stormed to victory with his sensational and utterly inspiring speech, which completely won me over, resulting in an extremely well deserved and goosebump-inducing standing ovation. Being around so many amazing young activists showed me what we, as students, can actually achieve, and I’m so excited to see all of the motions come into life next year.
Leah Hibbs: Personally, the motion asking whether or not the NUS should collaborate with Unite Against Fascism, was what I found the most interesting. On the back of a recent display of complete disorganisation by UAF in Swansea, I was extremely pleased when Conference joined me in voting against this collaboration. An organised fight against the extreme right is important, but organising through UAF, as was decided, is not the way to go about it.
The NUS Conference 2014 taught me many things. Firstly, I learnt very quickly that I do not want to hear the phrases ‘procedural motion’ or ‘parts’ spoken that many times in 3 days again, anytime soon! Secondly, it’s not as right-wing as you think it might be –there was a big left-wing presence which was refreshing. Overall, the NUS Conference was a wonderful experience for me and I would love to attend again in years to come!
Jake Smith: “The need to ensure students use their political power was at the forefront of NUS conference. With students far less likely to vote than other sections of society it’s no wonder that our interests are often side-lined when policies affecting higher education or youth services are decided. It was heartening to see the NUS tackle this disengagement as a priority and I voted to mandate the NUS to focus on student voter registration in the run up to the general election next year and to support students unions throughout the UK to develop their own general election strategy. When it was proposed that NUS London should be enhanced and made equal to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the NUS with a full time officer funded by the majority of the NUS’s financial surplus I joined conference in opposing this change because as a delegate from Wales I did not believe it was right to spend even more emphasising the capital when we could be using that money to campaign throughout the UK. It was really exciting to help shape the NUS and hopefully enable it to deliver tangible benefits for Cardiff students.”
Laura Carter; Attending the NUS UK Conference was a fantastic, if slightly overwhelming experience.
One highlight was the passing of an emergency motion, ‘Defend the DSA – fight the cuts’ which aims to fight changes made to the Disabled Students’ Allowance in early April, whereby laptop provision would be restricted and funding would now be issued by institutions. Yet unfairly, institutions that tend to accept disabled students are often provided with the least funding. I thought this motion highlighted the fantastic ability of NUS to respond urgently to issues affecting students.
Also, the re-election of Toni Pearce as President shows how excellent leaders do not always fit the ‘traditional’ mould, being only the 8th female President and first President of NUS from further education. Her speech confirmed how superb she has been this year and will continue to be, stating: “Never let anyone tell you that we’re not already a fighting, campaigning, winning movement”.