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What does NUS do for us?

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NUS President Wes Streeting answers the question constantly on our lips - what exactly is it our national union does for us?

NUS may be one of the largest and most respected student organisations in the world but I'm often asked by students what it is NUS actually does apart from offering a discount card.

I can assure you that NUS makes a big impact on student's lives. We have fought hard over the past 18 months, successfully campaigning to maintain council tax exemption for students, double the disabled student's allowance, and helped to rein in unscrupulous landlords by backing a new national tenancy deposit scheme. We've also run a successful campaign to convince HSBC to back down over their plans to end interest-free student overdrafts. This campaign alone saved students an estimated £22 million.

We also represent you on a national platform. As President of NUS I regularly attend meetings with MPs and policy makers. We have a seat at the table with the Student Loans Company, where we assiduously defend the rights of students.

In the last few years we have fully supported the continuation of the National Student Survey (NSS), which now gives university applicants more information than ever before about the institutions that they are applying to.

We lobbied for the creation of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) to ensure that students have an independent place of appeal outside of their own institution and NUS now sit on their board.

The reality is that governments of all colours pay attention to NUS; and unless students have a place in the national union they are, in effect, voiceless. We can all argue about how best to make the case for student finance, improved housing, higher standards of teaching; but that's a debate that you and other students across the country can do within NUS. Earlier this year, when Bill Rammell, the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, was asked his view on NUS he said:

"What can I say…if NUS didn't exist, the lives of politicians would be a whole lot easier."

We are working effectively for you but we cannot be complacent. We need your support in order to overcome the major challenges that we face.

In just a few months, we will have a huge fight on our hands: to rescue our higher education system from being corrupted by market forces and to prevent a future where the most esteemed universities are only accessible to the very rich. Next year's review of higher education funding will be our first chance since 2004 to fight the unsustainable top-up fees system, and we must be prepared for the battle that lies ahead. We are working hard to ensure that the cap on tuition fees is not lifted and that a fairer and less complicated system of student support and fees is implemented.

One key value that is close to our heart and central to our work is equality. We believe there should be equality of opportunity for everyone to participate fully in a society that celebrates diversity. There is much more that we, and students' unions, need to do to become more representative and relevant to more non-traditional students, such as part-time and mature students.

However, we are not just a campaigning organisation. We have a bank of dedicated and professional staff who work alongside the committed and passionate elected officers to deliver for you and your students' union. NUS provides tailor made information, advice, training and support to your local union that could not be found elsewhere. We are the leading provider of independent advice and offer individual students a wide range of information on a number of issues such as finance, housing and health.

Most of you will have heard of our best known benefit, the NUS Extra Card. NUS Extra is the student passport to discounts at a number of retail outlets, cinemas and tourist attractions. However, you may not realise that the Extra card doesn't just save you money; we have invested over £2 million in the past two years from the sale of the cards directly into students' unions to help provide advice, support and training for students like you.

I hope that this gives you an insight in the important work we are doing.

Students need an organisation that defends, extends and promotes their rights. That is why being a member of NUS matters so much and will make a difference to your everyday life.

Get involved with your students' union this year and let's fight together for improved rights for students across the UK. If you would like to find out more information about the work we do why not check out our website at: nus.org.uk

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