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NUS is selling its building and cutting down on full-time officers


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NUS is proposing cuts to full-time officer roles in a bid to save money. 

In November, it emerged that the organisation was on a verge of bankruptcy ahead of a forecasted £3 million deficit.

The organisation sent out a letter and white paper outlining a set of changes and reforms which have been proposed to 'make NUS financially and operationally viable.'

The reforms are meant to reduce costs and respond to feedback by NUS's stakeholders.

They include radical reforms to increase the NUS full-time officers' term to 2 years instead of the one.

In addition, the reform would see an introduction of a ‘cabinet’ of full-time officers 'who agree a single organisational manifesto that drives the campaigning work' instead of individual officers having their own manifestos.

The structure of NUS conferences would also change drastically if the proposals are accepted.

Voting is proposed to take place in person and online with elections taking place separately from policy-making (both of which are currently done at NUS's conferences) and the existing suite of conferences being collapsed into a single NUS Conference with caucuses for specific votes and topics.

It was also announced that 'all committee meetings' would happen over Skype.

In its letter, the NUS also announced the sale or rental of its London HQ, saying: "The NUS Finance Committee last week approved putting up our London HQ for sale/rent. The sale of this building will be used to release cash to replenish our reserves and pay back a loan which we will need to secure to cover our in-year funding shortfall."

It has not been confirmed whether the organisation plan to use the Macclesfield as their new HQ.

As part of its proposed changes, the NUS also declared the 2019/2020 year "a transition year which requires extraordinary action to ensure solvency and deliver a degree of financial stability." As such, the NUS is proposing to pause funding to the following 8 full-time officer roles for the next year:

  1. International Officer
  2. VP Society & Citizenship
  3. Wales & Scotland Deputies (2 posts)
  4. Wales & Scotland Women’s Officers (2 posts)
  5. Trans Officer
  6. LGBT+ Officer (Women’s Place)
The proposed cuts to the Trans Officer (and the position's associated campaign) were the first to be revealed on 21 Jan when the NUS LGBT+ Campaign account tweeted a statement condemning the decision. Subsequent cuts were announced the following day via the letter and white paper, which were sent to all member student unions by email.

The white paper also proposed other possible options for a future full-time officer structure, with varying numbers of officers.

The smallest option (4 full-time officers) would see all other full-time positions, including all liberation officer roles, abolished in exchange for a single full-time President for each nation/region (UK, Wales, Scotland and NUS-USI) with a claimed 60% increase in staff support per officer.

The largest (14 full-time officers), in contrast, would retain 1 officer across the organisation for each liberation campaign but see the current VPs for Higher and Further Education merged into a single position and an alleged 45% decrease in staff support per officer.

Notably, none of the NUS's reform proposals provide for a full-time International Officer, who currently represents international students in the UK.

Riddi Viswanathan, the full-time International Students' Officer at Manchester Student Union, criticised the proposed cuts, which would see the International Officer's remit for 2019/20 taken up by the VP Welfare on immigration and rights, and the VPs for HE and FE regarding education issues.

The NUS has opened a consultation on the reforms until 5.00pm on Friday 8 February 2019, on the following questions: What should the full-time officer roles be? What should the membership model be? Is the balance of deciding/doing right?

NUS member unions and individuals/organisations have been invited to respond to these questions, and their responses will be used to help draft a Reform Motion which will be submitted to the 2019 NUS National Conference in April.

The NUS has been approached for comment.

Image Credit: Willowbarbican [CC BY-SA 4.0]

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