Last week we sent five Delegates, as elected by you in February, to NUS National Conference in Glasgow, here is what they have to say about their experiences over the week:
It was great to see so many students in one place, debating key issues that affect over 7 million students. And this year, the NUS Reform motion was placed at the heart of the conference, where we debated on the future of the NUS - reminding ourselves of the past, and where NUS was born, and ensuring there is an organisation remaining that can thrive for years to come, for us, and for future generations.
Given that roughly 700 delegates attend the National Conference, I found the variety of views illuminating. For me, however, the lowlight was the river of procedural motions, including at one point a suggestion to close the conference down due to differing opinions to the decisions being made on the Reform amendments; I fear this casts doubt on the NUS, and questions its credibility. On another note, I didn't get a chance to explore Glasgow!
Generally speaking, the conference was an eye-opener on many things, because of the varied opinions on motions and the rich and very competitive debates on these motions and topics. Being my first time at an NUS Conference, I ensured I listened more and tried to understand and learn rather than get caught in the web of very intense debates as many managed to do. The debates could be a fun, but sometimes, daunting experience from my observation, particularly when the conference delegates had differing opinions or reacted badly.
I feel that the NUS has a lot to do to give clarity to procedures, and structures to better equip delegates going to this conference to enable maximum contributions as a result of very clear understanding of what the whole conference is about. Lastly, being part of the reform which is a historically significant and important time for the NUS was worth the time. I really look forward to the newly elected National Executives taking on the challenge and moving the NUS forward by following through with and delivering on their manifesto promises.
It was a great chance to chat with students from all over the UK, you don't get many chances to do that. However, I found it a mostly negative, worrying experience.
There's no facilitation in debates and people often started to argue about things entirely unrelated to the motion, but nobody said anything. Motions that were obviously jokes were submitted and debated on, and things like shutting down the whole of conference literally shouldn't exist. It's too much of an open system, on some motions I felt a lot of people were very confused on proposals, why should motions that people don't understand be allowed to become national policy? I'm glad that reform passed but really, it shouldn't have taken 700 students in a room to approve that.....
It wasn't all a bad experience, I was really happy that the Rouge Landlords motion and Rent Retainers amendment passed, making sure that all students live in safe affordable housing. When I start as Community Officer in June, I'll be working with Hudlets on an Accommodation Needs Policy and this will help inform that!
As a facilitator in the Big Ideas debate (the purpose being to impartially get participants to come to a consensus of agreement or disagreement on the debate at hand), I found the topics at hand didn’t come to a healthy enough conclusion when we voted. With only a minute or two each to speak and 700 delegate representatives of universities across the nation of HE and FE, the difficulty for a delegate to speak for not only their university but on issues of politics, intersectionality and institutional progression was difficult to navigate. Steering the conversation back on topic was vital, and there could have been more clarity provided.
Going as a student parent (I was blessed to be able to bring my child and childcare to this conference with me) I found that the only people mentioning poverty, student parent issues and mental health in an adequate manner on elections day were FE students. After a positive experience recently at the Educating Kirklees event organised by current SU President Jonathan Stephen, I sense that through bridging the gap of communication between HE and FE students we can empower our campaigns and strengthen our approach on issues affecting majorities of students.
Hearing the last speeches of current NUS President Shakira Martin, I felt inspired to make the right decisions for the students at University of Huddersfield. Ensuring reform went through at NUS, I was able to advocate for not only my SU in Huddersfield, but to spare some forethought for my friends graduating university over the next few years so that the communities they decide to create in the SU continue to empower the student voice, the ‘grassroots’ of NUS as many speakers on election day referred to.
Lastly, although the processes of the conference were frustrating, utilised at times as though we were just there to play a game… I think a lot of people taking part had done their best, had a deep understanding of how democracy in the NUS works and tried their best to transfer their SU’s needs through conference processes which is a valuable skill to have.
If you would like to get involved in the NUS National Conference next year, make sure you run in the SU Elections!