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NUS - Nationally Useless for Students?

31st January 2011

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Should the University of Southampton join the NUS? This controversial Referendum took place in December and revealed, despite predictions, an overwhelming majority of Southampton students to be against joining the NUS. The 67% voting no faced an unimpressive 33% who supported this referendum. As we consider the pros and cons, the question remains, is the NUS really of no benefit to the University? 

NUSMoney, being one of students’ main concerns, creates an initial idealistic view of the NUS, purely as a giver of discounts, saving students cash when online shopping or entering certain nightclubs. Whilst some students are discouraged by the up to £50,000 spent every year by student unions to affiliate, others, I’m sure, would recognise this money is not coming directly from them, and that they can still, therefore, benefit from the discounts.  

What many students in Southampton fail to realise is, however, that the Union would be forced to make cut backs. Charlotte Hopewell, a first year English student said, “Although you’d save money on discounts, joining sports groups and societies would cost a lot more. With less funding for these societies, and higher enrolling fees, less people would be eager to join.”

As a union, however, NUS claims that we can make vast savings of up to £44, 800 buying through the NUSSL (NUS Services Ltd.), and a further £800 for subscribing to AMSU (Association for Managers in Student Unions) activity. This results in an estimated net membership cost of £3,737.40 replacing the original £49,337.40. This is a far more reasonable price, one that could easily make students reconsider their decision of opting out. Yet, the plausibility of these figures are questionable, to say the least. Can we really trust estimations presented by NUSSL themselves?

It seems that financially, the benefits are uncertain, but could joining the NUS be valuable regardless of money? Their mission is ‘to promote, defend, and extend the rights of students and to develop and champion strong students' unions.’ This is exemplified through their regular campaigns for the rights and welfare of students.  

Despite these numerous attempts to better the lives of students, their success, however, remains limited. Their website highlights their ‘wins’, ranging from making booklets, to helping students repossess deposits on their houses. These minor successes show progress, but are overshadowed by their most significant recent failure; the raising of fees in 2012. This seems to show their power to influence the government is minimal, especially when facing serious controversy.  

Daniel Randall, from the NUS Trustee Board offered a possible explanation for this. “They are making cuts into conference delegation sizes to make it harder for student activists to reach conference”, he said. His theory is that without the support of student activists, their power will suffer, and in turn, making a bureaucratic and unrepresentative organisation.  

Their overall progress does show the NUS to be of some value to student unions. Additionally, individuals could actually save money by becoming a member. All the same, can we really justify spending nearly £50,000 to fund an unreliable organisation, or should we be thankful that we can now use that money to thrive as an individual union? It seems, only time will tell if the correct decision has been made.

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