National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts A coalition of students and workers fighting against tuition fees and education cuts Tue, 09 Feb 2016 21:21:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Left-wing motions for NUS National Conference 2016 Mon, 08 Feb 2016 22:56:11 +0000 On 19-21 April 2016, the National Union of Students (NUS) will be holding its national annual conference. NCAFC activists will be at the conference to argue for a left-wing, campaigning, democratic direction for our national union. As well as standing candidates for leading roles, we will push for left-wing policies, and hold the leadership to […]]]>

NUS conference voting delegatesOn 19-21 April 2016, the National Union of Students (NUS) will be holding its national annual conference. NCAFC activists will be at the conference to argue for a left-wing, campaigning, democratic direction for our national union. As well as standing candidates for leading roles, we will push for left-wing policies, and hold the leadership to account where they have failed to fulfil their mandates.

Motions for NUS conference are submitted via student unions – students propose them to their local union’s democratic structure, and if they are voted through, the union sends them to NUS conference. We encourage activists to submit left-wing motions, and also to stand for election as delegates and come to the conference to argue and vote for them! The motions below have been written by NCAFC activists for supporters to propose to their unions – they do not necessarily represent the views of every NCAFC member. Some of them are stand-alone motions, and some of them are amendments to proposals from the NUS leadership (the Zone Committees) – you can find those proposals here.

NUS motions are organised into “zones” according to their topic, and each student union can submit up to 1400 words. You will need to:

  1. Put up to 1400 words worth of motions (see word counts in the list below) to your SU’s democratic structures (e.g. Council, General Meeting, Executive or Referendum). Remember to find out when there’s a meeting before the NUS deadline (12 Noon on Friday 4 March 2016) and check how far in advance you need to submit your motions to that meeting.
  2. Campaign to win the vote.
  3. Make sure your SU submits them to NUS using this form before 12 Noon on Friday 4 March 2016.

Please let us know if you are going to put motions to your union, if you would like help, or if you want to suggest further motions additional to those listed here: email We can let you know which motions are already being put through SUs and which need to be picked up. Please also get in touch if you are going to be a delegate to NUS Conference and want to coordinate with other NCAFC activists there!


[Word counts in square brackets]

Welfare Zone

  • #GrantsNotDebt! [283]
  • The rent is too damn high! [271]
  • Defend our local services [374]
  • Action to beat Prevent [173]

Education Zone

  • Education not for sale – stop the HE reforms [258]
  • #StopCollegeCuts – Oppose the FE Area Reviews [389]
  • Trade union rights [213]

Society & Citizenship Zone

  • Scrap Trident – spend the money on jobs, education and public services [265]
  • Defend Migrants: Another Europe is Possible [351]
  • Climate change [258]
  • A good local community school for every student [333]
  • Syria, Daesh, Kurdistan and the war  [291]

Union Development Zone

  • Free speech and no platform [313]
  • For democratic, campaigning student unions [259]
  • Defending Our Unions [308]
  • Make FE union development our #1 priority [Final text will be posted very soon!]

Annual General Meeting (motions about how NUS works!)

  • Governance reviews – some basic principles [217]
  • Fund the Block to do their jobs [291]
  • Regional organising – make it a priority [154]
  • Make conference more accessible and representative  [292]

Welfare Zone


Conference Believes

  1. Despite our protests, this Conservative government has abolished the poorest undergraduates’ maintenance grants. Before it, the Coalition scrapped the FE Education Maintenance Allowance. Cutting these was shameful, but they weren’t even enough in the first place. NUS previously supported universal living grants to support all students.
  2. We need to ensure every student can afford to live decently during their studies – the fight for living grants is a fight for accessible, liberated education.
  3. Many people fall through the gaps in any means-tested system that assumes parental support – in particular those with unsupportive families, such as many LGBT+ people. The “estrangement” system is broken, but even if we can improve it, it can only help those students who cut themselves off completely from their families. That’s why NUS LGBT+ campaign voted last year to campaign for universal living grants.
  4. Universalism – public services available to absolutely everyone – is a core progressive principle for our movement.
  5. There is plenty of money in society to restore universal grants, plus fund good public services – it’s in the bank accounts and businesses of the wealthy. That wealth should be used to pay not just for their education, but for everyone else’s too.

Conference Resolves

  1. Take up the #GrantsNotDebt campaign to first reverse the cuts to maintenance grants, and then to increase them to a decently live-able level, with additional supplements reflecting the needs of student carers and disabled students, and extend them to all students in FE and HE.
  2. Demand this is funded through progressive taxation such as an increase in corporation tax and taxes on the richest, not by raising taxes on the poorest or cutting public services.

The rent is too damn high!

Conference believes

  1. NUS has already committed to campaign for demands including scrapping letting agents’ fees, taxing empty homes and multiple homes, scrapping council tax, permanent tenancies, a council house building program, and rent controls.
  2. The housing crisis is only getting worse for both students and the rest of society.
  3. The new Housing & Planning Bill is a huge further attack on social housing and will:
    1. Force councils to sell off good quality council housing to private landlords.
    2. Remove secure tenancies from council housing residents.
    3. Push up rents for many council tenants.
    4. Cut investment in social housing.
    5. Undermine the rights of travellers and gypsies.

Conference further believes

  1. Affordable, decent housing is of huge importance to student welfare and to access to education.
  2. Students at SOAS and UCL have shown that rent strikes are a powerful weapon against exploitative landlords.

Conference resolves

  1. Reaffirm the housing campaigning commitments we previously voted for.
  2. Oppose the Housing & Planning Bill and campaign to stop it (and reverse it if it does pass).
  3. Work with the “Kill the Housing Bill” campaign, which is a coalition of trade unions, local tenants’ federations, activist groups and gypsy & travellers associations.
  4. Produce and promote useful information about how to campaign for decent, affordable housing and how to organise rent strikes, and provide support and assistance to student rent strikers.
  5. Continue our commitment to cooperating with non-student housing campaigns and tenants’ organisations, aiming in the end to have unified democratic tenants’ unions for all in every town, city and region.

Defend our local services

Amendment to “SOS – Save Our Services”


Conference believes

  1. Relying on Council Tax increases to save services can end up squeezing those who cannot afford it.
  2. We need local action to prevent and reverse cuts to services, and nationwide action to challenge the cuts to local authority budgets.
  3. We must also oppose outsourcing and privatisation, and campaign for public services to be publicly owned, under democratic control – not corner-cutting profiteers or unaccountable undemocratic charities.

Conference further believes

  1. Stopping and reversing local service cuts will usually require action beyond awareness-raising, to create pressure on decision-makers.
  2. Approaching elections we must put forward clear demands based on our democratic policies, use the election period to popularise them, and place pressure on candidates and parties to sign up to them using all effective methods.
  3. In the past, it has been possible for local councils, with the support of their communities, to refuse to implement cuts passed down from central government. Historic refusals to implement local cuts have been incredibly powerful and have caused changes at the national level. This requires not only councillors willing to resist, but an organised local movement ready to back them up with mass action when central government attempts to override them.

Conference resolves

  1. The VP Welfare should develop a strategy working with SUs and allies to win decently funded, publicly-owned services, including:
    1. Campaigns running up to all relevant elections that promote clear demands to protect services and place pressure on candidates and parties to meet those demands, including lobbying, media, protest and direct action.
    2. Complete support for organising efforts and industrial action by service workers against attacks on their pay, working conditions and jobs.
    3. Local lobbying, protest and direct action as appropriate in defence of specific services.
    4. Cooperating with NUS liberation campaigns to provide information, assistance and encouragement for campus liberation groups to campaign against service cuts particularly relevant to their members.
    5. Exploring potential for building local alliances that could effectively support councillors outright refusing to implement cuts, and for convincing councillors to do this.
    6. Campaigning nationally to reverse local government cuts, funded by progressively taxing the rich and business and taking the banking system that we bailed out under democratic public control.

Action to beat Prevent

Conference believes

  1. The racist Prevent agenda is already coming into force on campuses and NUS is rightly campaigning against it.
  2. UCU trade union has voted to equip branches on campuses to open industrial disputes to collectively boycott work duties associated with Prevent.

Conference further believes

  1. We can beat Prevent with collective, democratic action that disrupts its functioning.
  2. Workers responsible for Prevent duties are particularly well-placed to take such action.

Conference resolves

  1. Fully support the initiative of education workers, through their trade unions, boycotting Prevent duties.
  2. Work with education trade unions to facilitate branches taking such action.
  3. Work also with NUS Postgrad Section, as representatives of postgrads who teach, on how casualised student workers can contribute to such action.
  4. Help student unions and students to work with campus trade union branches to encourage, concretely assist and support such action and defend workers against victimisation.
  5. Help student unions and students to organise and support protest and direct action against Prevent on campuses.

Education Zone

Education not for sale – stop the HE reforms

Amendment to “Divorce our courses from market forces”


Conference believes:

  1. The proposed reforms presented in the government’s Higher Education Green Paper are a potentially devastating attack on education.
  2. At the time of writing, after the consultation, we were waiting for a revised version of the reform package to be announced.

Conference further believes:

  1. Universities and teaching can be improved by decent public funding and democratic structures, not marketisation.
  2. The autonomy and campaigning activity of Students’ Unions must be defended.
  3. We need to significantly up our work to stop the proposals which, combined with cuts to grants, bursaries and FE colleges, form a potentially devastating attack on public education.

Conference resolves:

  1. To reaffirm our commitment to campaign for free and democratic education at all levels, funded by taxing the rich and their businesses, not by cutting other services or further squeezing those who can’t afford it.
  2. Actively campaign, in collaboration with education trade unions, to stop the proposed Higher Education reforms.
  3. To link fighting the HE reforms to stopping the major cuts threatening further education and to reversing abolitions of grants and bursaries.
  4. To organise a national demonstration in the first half of November 2016, focussed on 3 clear demands directed at the government, against major current attacks on education: #StopTheHEReforms, #StopCollegeCuts, and #GrantsNotDebt.
  5. To invite education trade unions to join us in supporting this demonstration.
  6. To place this action within a wider strategy of protest, direct action and lobbying, with action at both local and national levels.

#StopCollegeCuts – Oppose the FE Area Reviews

Conference believes:

  1. The Government has made huge cuts to FE and sixth form colleges resulting in course and campus closures, mergers and job losses.
  2. In 2015 the Government withdraw all funding for ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) courses, which is having immediate impact on the thousands that relied on these essential courses.
  3. The Government is conducting ‘Area Reviews’ of post-16 education and training in England, which have already begun in 7 regions.
  4. Analysis suggests that up to 4 in 10 colleges could close if the further planned cuts go ahead.
  5. The stated aim of “larger, more efficient, more resilient providers” will lead to college mergers.
  6. Sixth Form Colleges are at particular risk of closure or merger during area reviews.

Conference further believes:

  1. Further and adult education is a vital though often undervalued public good, providing for diverse students with high numbers from disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds as well as for parents, careers, refugees and those changing career or returning to work.
  2. Further and adult education is being brutally and systematically dismantled. The Area Reviews will only escalate the existing state of crisis facing the sector, with further cuts, courses closures and job losses through mergers and massively narrowed curriculums.
  3. Large, specialist regionalised colleges and sixth forms will reduce opportunities and increase the cost of learning, further damaging access to education.
  4. Colleges have already been regionalised in Scotland and Wales where there has been no evidence that mergers save money though the cuts to courses, teaching and provision have continued.
  5. Area Reviews are focused on satisfying employers and not on education and students’ needs.
  6. The Area Reviews are part of the Government’s attack on the poorest and most vulnerable students, and a part of a wider assault on education.

Conference resolves:

  1. Oppose and actively campaign against the Area Reviews and to halt and reverse all the cuts to FE and ESOL, including organising protest and supporting and encouraging direct action against cuts and college closures.
  2. Educate students about the area reviews and the impact they will have on them, FE lecturers and workers alike, and help them organise against the reviews by offering training and support.
  3. Collaborate with trade unions and other appropriate groups on this.

Trade union rights

Amendment to “Employability isn’t working”


Conference believes

  1. The Trade Union Bill would criminalise many forms of trade union activity; further limit the already very limited right to strike; and obstruct trade unions and the workers’ movement from maintaining political representation.
  2. Even before this Bill, there was a whole raft of laws aimed at crippling trade unions and stifling workers’ rights, dating back to the Thatcher government.
  3. The Tories are blatant hypocrites, requiring 40% or more for a strike when their party took office with less than 25% of the electorate.

Conference further believes

  1. The weakening of trade unions is a big reason why so many graduates and others face low pay, insecurity and a lack of rights, even when fortunate enough to find jobs.
  2. NUS should concretely help the campaign for trade union rights.

Conference resolves

  1. To work with unions, the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom and Right to Strike to oppose the TU Bill.
  2. To demand the repeal of all anti-trade union laws and a positive charter of rights: to join a union, organise, strike and do things which make strikes effective, including picketing and solidarity action.
  3. To create a section of the NUS website to promote union membership and highlight the fight for workers’ rights.

Society & Citizenship Zone

Scrap Trident – spend the money on jobs, education and public services

Conference believes

  1. A decision will be made this year whether to renew the UK’s Trident nuclear weapon system.
  2. The £100 billion the government wants to spend on replacing Trident should be spent on decent, socially useful jobs, free education and other public services.
  3. The supposed “deterrent” value of nuclear weapons depends on willingness to use them; and using them would certainly mean vast numbers of civilian deaths immediately and for years to come.
  4. The government wants to spend billions on murderous weapons of mass destruction at the very time it is gutting public services. Our society is not short of money – there is huge wealth in the pockets of the rich – but this is a terrible way to spend those resources.

Conference further believes

  1. The shipyards producing nuclear weapon-carrying submarines (the weapons themselves are bought from the US!) can be converted to produce something else. Governments have converted military industry to civilian purposes many times in the past and workers employed in the arms trade have previously developed plans of their own for such conversion.
  2. The workers involved in these projects should be guaranteed decent alternative jobs producing something socially useful, with no loss of pay or conditions, and a lot money would still be left for public services.

Conference resolves

  1. To campaign against replacing Trident and for nuclear disarmament on the basis set out above.
  2. To facilitate CMs to campaign for money to be spent on free education, jobs and services instead of nuclear weapons.

Defend Migrants: Another Europe is Possible

Conference believes

  1. This year will be the referendum on the UK’s EU membership, and David Cameron is already trying to renegotiate the terms, undermining important rights and attacking migrants.
  2. We should fight to defend the guarantee of freedom of movement for EU citizens (including students travelling to study), and fight to extend it to those currently locked out of “Fortress Europe”.
  3. Despite some progressive policies, the current state of the EU protects the interests of the rich and powerful. It is undemocratic and bureaucratic, and enforces austerity and privatisation.
  4. But the UK state is no less a tool of the rich and powerful. Leaving the EU would only boost anti-migrant racists and strengthen barriers against free movement and international solidarity.

Conference further believes

  1. NUS rightly already opposes Brexit. At the same time, we cannot ignore the EU’s problems. We must argue to stay in as part of a fight for a genuinely democratic and socially just Europe with better rights for migrants.
  2. The big Britain Stronger in Europe campaign is dominated by Tories and business leaders. It’s their campaign to defend the EU as it is now, and so can’t be a voice for the kind of Europe we want. The Another Europe is Possible (AEIP) campaign and Workers’ Europe have been set up to organise a progressive, anti-austerity, internationalist opposition to Brexit.

Conference resolves

  1. Campaign for the UK to stay in the EU, but on our own basis as above, for:
    1. international student and workers’ solidarity
    2. levelling up of wages, conditions, services and rights across the EU
    3. democratisation including a sovereign European Parliament
    4. freedom of movement and an end to “Fortress Europe”
  2. Campaign against David Cameron’s renegotiations undermining migrant rights, workers’ rights and human rights.
  3. To work independently from the Tory- and big-business-dominated “Britain Stronger in Europe”, instead promoting a positive vision by working with AEIP and Workers’ Europe, and student unions and trade unions across Europe.
  4. Put migrants’ rights and freedom of movement at the heart of our campaign.

Climate change

Conference believes

  1. The recent COP21 climate talks produced a lot of rhetoric, but insufficient concrete commitment on tackling dangerous climate change.
  2. The $100 billion pledged to help developing countries meet the COP21 targets is less than 8% of global military spending, to say nothing of corporate profits.
  3. COP21 had little to say about droughts, floods, crop failures, species extinctions, coastal erosion and extreme weather, and nothing about climate-driven mass migration.
  4. The UK government’s seriousness about meeting a zero emissions target by 2030 is shown by the fact it recently scrapped a £1bn competition to develop carbon capture technology and cut subsidies to solar power 65%.

Conference further believes

  1. Promoting lifestyle changes and relying on markets won’t save us.
  2. Tackling climate change requires massive public spending on developing alternative energy, transport, redesign of housing, workplaces, urban environments, and more, tied to democratic public ownership in these sectors.
  3. Unsustainable industries need to be taken under democratic public ownership, their infrastructure converted and jobs transferred to prevent lay-offs.
  4. We need mass mobilisation around these goals, linking up students and climate campaigners with the workers’ movement.

Conference resolves

  1. Make campaigning against climate change and for a sustainable world a major priority this year, highlighting demands for public ownership and democratic control of energy and transport.
  2. Highlight the government’s lack of seriousness about reaching zero emissions by 2030.
  3. Build links with trade unions on this, including support for unions representing the solar energy workers whose jobs the government is slashing.

A good local community school for every student

Conference believes

  1. The drive, accelerated by the Tories but also promoted by New Labour, to break up and undermine comprehensive secondary school education in various ways, is bad for children, education workers and society.
  2. Academies and free schools are ways of chopping up and semi-privatising education.
  3. The spread of state-funded religious schools in various forms is also part of this process, in addition strengthening sectarian divisions between people and, in some cases, handing control of education to bigoted conservative religious groups with negative consequences for sex education, LGBT+ rights, women’s rights and more.
  4. Research has shown that not only do faith schools’ selection criteria discriminate against the children of parents with other or no religion, it is also easier for middle-class parents to “game” their selection criteria, helping to pass on unfair advantage to their children.

Conference further believes

  1. State-funded schools should be neutral on questions of religious belief – every school should be an equally inclusive place for students of all religions and none, and where every student is free to believe and practice their own religion or lack of religion.
  2. Every child should be able to attend a good, local community school, and that all state schools should be open-access, secular community schools, run by the local authority.
  3. School students have run inspiring campaigns to stop their schools being converted into academies – NUS should reach out to support them with our resources and platform.


  1. To campaign for a place at a good, local community school run by the local authority to be available for every child.
  2. To campaign for academies, free schools, grammar schools and state-funded religious schools to be turned into secular, open-access community schools run by the local authority, and for private schools at the very least to have their charitable status removed.
  3. To work with education workers’ unions, the Anti-Academies Alliance, school students who are organising, and other appropriate groups.

Syria, Daesh, Kurdistan and the war

Conference Believes

  1. The ongoing war launched by Assad against the Syrian people in 2011
  2. The expansion of Daesh and far-right sectarian militias amongst the anti-Assad opposition
  3. The Kurdish struggle for national liberation in Syria, Iraq and Turkey
  4. The UK bombing campaign begun in 2015
  5. The ongoing intervention by many imperialist powers, including Iran, Russia, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the USA, the UK and their proxies.

Conference Further Believes

  1. Cameron’s bombing campaign in Syria cannot defeat Daesh, but can only increase the suffering of the Syrian people. It is cynically motivated, and designed only to increase the UK’s “prestige” internationally.
  2. Assad’s regime is monstrous and must go; and the Russian campaign to shore up his regime is equally monstrous
  3. If the UK government were interested in fighting Daesh or Al-Qaeda, it would stop the flow of support to them from UK allies: Turkey and the Gulf States
  4. The struggle of the Kurdish people for self-determination, against Daesh and the racist Erdogan government, deserves our support
  5. The Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) democratically represents a large proportion of Kurds and is a major force fighting effectively against Daesh and for the Kurds to be free, so it should be removed from the UK and EU lists of banned organisations.


  1. To support the call to remove the PKK from the UK and EU ban lists.
  2. To issue statements, organise meetings and support mobilisations in support of the Kurdish struggle; in support of secular and democratic forces in Syria and humanitarian efforts to support the Syrian population.
  3. To send NUS banners to, and mobilise students to participate in, protests against the UK bombing of Syria.

Union Development Zone

Free speech and no platform

Conference believes

  1. Freedom of speech at education institutions has been a huge source of controversy recently, with arguments over both student groups’ calls to ban certain speakers, and the government’s racist policing of freedom of expression through Prevent.
  2. Restrictions imposed by a student union are different to those imposed by the government, but they can still be problematic. Movements like ours seek to challenge existing authorities and challenge the existing dominant ideas. That means freedom to debate ideas, is vital to our goals. The oppressed have the most to lose from attacks on democratic rights.
  3. Beyond certain clear limits, i.e. fascism, policing ideas and discussion among our members is not an appropriate activity for students’ unions; it weakens our case to the wider public when we want to oppose restrictions imposed by management and the government.

Conference further believes

  1. NUS is rightly committed to a tactic of no platform for fascists. This is not based on the idea that fascist ideas are too dangerous (for instance, we don’t support banning historical fascist texts from our libraries). Fascism is an organised movement that uses physical force to crush workers’, left and student groups and oppressed people. Fascists have declared physical war on us, so we can’t give them any space to operate.
  2. This is different to those who have bigoted views, who must be countered through argument and protest, not bans. No-platform tactics are ineffective against widely-held bigoted views.
  3. All of this is about political policy: it is a different matter from excluding individuals who are personally violent or dangerous, which is reasonable.

Conference resolves

  1. We reaffirm our commitment to a policy of no platform for fascists.
  2. As a general principle, NUS will combat reactionary, bigoted ideas politically, through argument and protest, rather than through tactics of bans and no platform.

For democratic, campaigning student unions

Amendment to “Students’ unions are valued for student engagement in learning, help us NUS”



Conference believes

  1. The most basic act of engagement and participation that student unions need to get right is participation and representation of students in unions. We need unions to be democratic, open to their members, and to meet a basic set of democratic standards.
  2. Without being democratic, unions cannot meaningfully facilitate the Learner Voice.
  3. At conference 2015, we passed a set of basic democratic processes and standards.
  4. NUS’s offer of advice and consultation to its members should not be “affordable” – it should be free, and included in membership contributions. It would be better to put up affiliation fees than to limit poorer unions’ access to proper advice.

Conference further believes

  1. We should reaffirm policy passed at last conference, that unions need:
    1. Elected, not appointed, representatives
    2. A flow of easily accessible information to members (records of decisions, reports from elected officers, etc);
    3. Regular, well-built General Meetings and/or Councils;
    4. Councils open to all to attend, speak and put motions;
    5. All important decisions to be made by students and their elected representatives;
    6. Autonomous liberation campaigns, and preferably full-time Liberation officers
    7. SU independence from institutional management, including guaranteed, secure resources and space; means of communication with members; automatic annual elections; and accountable election returning officers with no employment or trusteeship connection with the institution.

Conference resolves

  1. NUS will include the above basic democratic standards in any advice given to member unions on engagement and participation.
  2. NUS’s advice to its member unions will be free

Defending Our Unions

Amendment to “The Impact of Student Opportunities”


Conference Believes:

  1. In almost every case where there has been a majority Conservative government, there has been an attack on Students’ Unions: on our ability to organise, on our funding and autonomy.
  2. The reason why some in the political establishment hate Students’ Unions is because we are democratic and collectivist organisations, which are allied to a wider labour movement, and which have a track record of fighting – and often defeating – governments and managements.
  3. The existence of democratic, participatory spaces and organisations on campuses does not sit comfortably with any vision for a marketised or privatised education system.
  4. When Margaret Thatcher tried to attack the autonomy and finances of Students’ Unions in the 1970s, NUS, led by President Digby Jacks, organised a mass student mobilisation which led to the proposals being withdrawn.

Conference Further Believes:

  1. Attacks on Students’ Unions are the result of an agenda to push education into the private sector, and an elite which – rightly – sees unions as a threat to their power to make cuts, undermine academic freedom, and attack students and education workers.
  2. Students’ Unions political and campaigning activity is essential to their function of fighting for students’ rights, and must be defended.
  3. If the government tries to undermine Students’ Unions, we will need a campaign of mass mobilisation, including protest and direct action.

Conference Resolves:

  1. NUS will actively oppose any restrictions to the autonomy, and the political and campaigning activity, of Students’ Unions.
  2. We will seek to persuade decision-makers and to build support for Students’ Unions among the wider public. But we have to be prepared to raise hell as well as build bridges.
  3. To prepare for a campaign of mass mobilisation and direct action, on a scale never seen before, if the government attempts to legislate to undermine Students’ Unions.

Make FE union development our #1 priority

Final text for this motion is being revised, check back soon or get in touch!

Annual General Meeting

Governance reviews – some basic principles

Conference believes

  1. NUS is currently undergoing a governance review.
  2. NUS is basically always undergoing a governance review, depending on the various agendas a motivations of the current FTO team.
  3. Governance reviews often seem boring, but they are unavoidably political and can have a massive impact on what NUS does – and by extension on the lives of the students we represent.
  4. The current governance review – Project 100 – is not being put to conference this year. Instead, it has been briefed to sabbatical officers and SU staff at various events, and approved only by the trustee board.

Conference resolves

  1. To establish the following principles for the governance review:
    1. Governance reforms should be launched and governed by democratic processes, such as conference and NEC. They should not be hidden in board papers.
    2. We should embrace digital technology and new forums and forms for debate
    3. There should be no reduction in the space and time allotted to democratic sessions as a result of changes to NUS structures. In fact it should be expanded.
    4. National Conference must remain the sovereign policy-making body of NUS, and participation in it should be widened.
    5. The overwhelming priority for NUS should be involvement of students and development of unions which cannot participate under the current system.

Fund the Block to do their jobs

Conference believes

  1. The Block of 15 are currently unpaid, and have no access to funding their own activities.
  2. This means that Block of 15 members who want to do a lot of activism while in office often have to live in poverty, as they cannot take on full time work or part time work alongside their studies. It also means that the Block of 15, whose job is to scrutinise FTOs, have to go begging to FTOs in order to attend events – creating a clear conflict of interest.
  3. This was not always the case: the Block of 15 used to be paid a part time stipend and had an autonomous budget.

Conference further believes

  1. Having 15 officers without portfolio travelling around the country, assisting with campaigns, implementing NUS policy and acting on their initiative would be a major boon to NUS.
  2. NUS spends lots of money on all kinds of things. Paying the Block of 15 a part time stipend would not cost a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it would mean that they were independent and effective – which at present they are often not.

Conference resolves

  1. From this year, to create an autonomous budget code within the NEC budget which can be controlled collectively by the Block of 15 for campaigns and travel costs.
  2. To pay the Block of 15 a stipend of at least £5000 from this year.
  3. To mandate the Trustee Board and NEC to produce estimates for national conference 2017 which include an annual stipend of £9000 for each member of the Block of 15 – with additional regional pay weightings  for those who qualify under NUS’s existing pay structure.

Regional organising – make it a priority

Conference believes

  1. Not so long ago, NUS had thriving regional organisations, which held their own conferences, had their own full time officers, and conducted their own campaigns.
  2. NUS Areas still exist in the constitution, but have rarely been implemented and have been majorly deprioritised. An Area can come into being if recognised by the NEC under Rule 2000.
  3. Better regional support and organisation would hold big benefits for members: it is cost-effective and it is often more accessible way to organise.

Conference resolves

  1. To mandate the incoming NEC to pro-actively recognise Area Organisations for relevant geographical areas, and to ensure that Areas are adequately resourced in being given the opportunity to get off the ground.
  2. The operation of Areas should be open and responsive to students – and participation in setting them up and attending their events should not be limited to sabbatical officers.

Make conference more accessible and representative

Conference believes

  1. Because they are driven by political agendas just as often as they are by evidence base, not all of the outcomes of governance reviews are good for democracy. Over the past ten years:
    1. NUS national conference has shrunk significantly, with many delegations more than halving in size.
    2. NUS national conference has become shorter, meaning that a very large proportion of the motions submitted are never discussed and conference is woefully inaccessible.
    3. NUS’s events have become more and more focussed on catering for a small demographic of full time officers and senior staff.

Conference further believes

  1. We should always embrace change, and use innovative methods for giving members a voice. However, we should also not compromise on basic democratic standards, and we should not be afraid of ditching and reversing things which haven’t worked.

Conference resolves

  1. To mandate the incoming President, DPC and NEC to find the resources to extend national conference for an extra day in time for national conference 2017.
  2. To directly mandate an extra day for NUS national conference from 2018 onwards.
  3. To mandate the incoming DPC to investigate the costs of increasing the size of delegations to national conference. This report should include a number of options, to be presented to national conference 2017, up to a doubling of the current delegate entitlements. The report should integrate these options with proposals for additional liberation quotas.
  4. To mandate the incoming DPC to investigate the costs of holding a second policy-making conference to merge with Zones, with a number of options to be presented to national conference 2017 – ranging from a delegate size the same size as national conference, to a much smaller delegate entitlement.
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Callout: Stop Trident National Demonstration Mon, 01 Feb 2016 22:25:21 +0000

Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons programme, is up for renewal this year – opponents of these dangerous and criminally expensive weapons of mass destruction need to mobilise, make the case against nuclear weapons, and take direct action. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has called a ‘Stop Trident national demonstration’ in London on 27th February. NCAFC will be co-hosting a Student Bloc on the demo with Youth and Student CND, the Student Assembly Against Austerity, and Stop the War.

There is significant public opposition to Trident, and for the first time in a long while the Labour Party has a leader who strongly opposes nuclear weapons. There are also powerful anti-democratic interests behind the renewal of Trident that will need to be combatted by a grassroots movement: a tangled nexus of arms dealers, civil servants, ruling class politicians, military officers, and war-mongering media outlets.

At the NCAFC’s recent protest against the abolition of maintenance grants for the million poorest students, Labour MP Clive Lewis made the point that the resources going to Trident ‘could be better spent on educating our country and looking after the people than spending it on weapons of mass destruction.’ The government claims Trident will cost £100 billion, though there have been credible reports that the likely figure is closer to £167 billion. Although we must reject the logic of austerity and the claim that public funds are inherently scarce, Trident is one of the worst imaginable uses of money. It is also necessary to rebut pseudo-progressive rhetoric about protecting ‘defence jobs’ – reports by CND and the Nuclear Education Trust have shown that ‘equally high-skilled jobs can be created in other sectors for a fraction of the costs.’ The campaign to scrap Trident needs to be firm about demanding that all the workers involved be guaranteed decent alternative jobs producing something socially useful, with no loss of pay or conditions.

Worse than the financial cost is the fact that a vote for renewal will lock Britain into many more years of maintaining weapons capable of incinerating millions of human beings. This is a truly appalling weapon system consisting of 40 warheads, each 8 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
We need students to mobilise for the demo, and to make the political case against Trident on their campuses. Here are some things you can do:

– Find promotional materials from the CND here, leaflet and hold stalls
– Sign people up for the CND coaches (full list here), or organise a coach from your campus
– Organise a public talk or debate on Trident renewal and nuclear disarmament
– Target militarism and arms companies on your own campus, for example by disrupting their recruitment at careers fairs (see: Campaign Against the Arms Trade for more information)
– Do a creative protest or direct action on your campus against Trident
– Write an article for your student paper on why Trident shouldn’t be renewed

See you in the streets!

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#BursaryOrBust: Fighting the Cuts to NHS Bursaries Wed, 27 Jan 2016 21:13:43 +0000 This article was written by Danielle Tiplady, a final year nursing student at King’s College London. Deciding to become a nurse was a late decision for me. After years of not knowing what to do and thinking very little of myself, I never thought I would be in the position where I could do a […]]]>

bursary or bust profile

This article was written by Danielle Tiplady, a final year nursing student at King’s College London.

Deciding to become a nurse was a late decision for me. After years of not knowing what to do and thinking very little of myself, I never thought I would be in the position where I could do a degree. This only started by me working as a carer in a mental health unit for the elderly. I found it very shocking how ill people could become, I was very naive. However seeing the nurses care for patients and help them live beyond their illnesses was inspiring and within about 5 minutes I had decided I wanted to be a nurse. I too wanted to be able to further my knowledge and take a bigger role in caring for others who needed it most. I completed an access to higher education course and gained a place at university to study a BSc in Adult Nursing, which was the proudest moment of my life. Two things made this possible: my own hard work and my NHS bursary.

The removal of the bursary marks the complete death of state support for higher education for students. Furthermore, it means that it removes the chance for those who care to train in healthcare, meaning only those who can afford to can do so. George Osborne suggests this will expand training places by 10,000 – this is absolutely ludicrous and does not make sense. As well as it being absolutely ridiculous expecting people to pay 64 k to work? To do night shifts? To work weekends?

Hospitals already struggle to accommodate students. Nurses are stretched and many go without breaks or even being able to go to the toilet in a 12.5 hour shift. Earlier this year the government scrapped the safe staffing guidance which would have meant an 8:1 patient to nurse ratio, despite the research which evidences how pertinent these ratios are for patient safety. The wards are bursting with patients. There are limited funds within the NHS and staffing is dangerously low. So how exactly will the 10,000 more nurses coming from George Osborne’s proposed idea actually train? How will patients be cared for safely as well as students be trained to the highest standard?

So then that brings me onto the junior doctor contract changes, does Jeremy Hunt really think this is acceptable? To take away such a vast amount of money from those who have trained for years at university, who help to change and save people’s lives? Who I see in my placements like the nurses, staying for hours out of their own good will to care for patients? Does he really think that junior doctors will stand for these appalling cuts? It all seems a little suspicious and deliberate, it is almost as if the government are setting us up to fail. Setting us up to be angry and want to leave, setting the NHS up to dismantle it and sell it off piece by piece.

Considering the constant attacks on the NHS I decided to start the bursary campaign on an angry Wednesday morning in the library. We had a demo outside the Department of Health which attracted around 500 people. The momentum and support has been outstanding, healthcare professionals and members of the public have united. The frustration and anger within our committee has continued and a couple of weekends ago we had a march in London, whereby 5000 people came to defend the bursary. Moving forward we are co-hosting a ‘Defend our NHS, defend our education’ week with the Student Assembly Against Austerity between the 8-14th of February, which we are asking students nationally to take part in. You can be as creative as you like! And at 10am on Wednesday 10th February student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals will walk out of their placements to join junior doctors on the picket lines.

We must continue to unite and stand against these rounds of cuts to education. The bursary is not a cost but an investment in the health and wellbeing of society. To lose it would not only affect NHS students, but each and every one of you.

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Some thoughts on the need for a militant, class struggle feminism Thu, 21 Jan 2016 15:43:28 +0000 The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts Women and Non-Binary Conference has been organised to strive towards a revitalisation of militant feminism within the student movement and beyond. In the student sphere, a certain kind of politics focussed on identity and safety still largely dominates feminist discourse and activity. The source of this politics is […]]]>


The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts Women and Non-Binary Conference has been organised to strive towards a revitalisation of militant feminism within the student movement and beyond. In the student sphere, a certain kind of politics focussed on identity and safety still largely dominates feminist discourse and activity. The source of this politics is understandable, and often not thoroughly critiqued with sufficient sensitivity. This is especially true when such critiques emerge from the right and vilify such ideas as just another example of ‘leftist censorship of free speech’ (‘free speech’, in their terms, entailing a freedom to say as one wills, no matter how oppressive, without consequence – a deployment that we must of course denounce). The politics of safety is a natural, impulsive response to a social order which so routinely marginalises, threatens and harms us. It is a kind of secessionism intended to insulate us from the routine miseries and violence inflicted on us by the world. We withdraw into ourselves, ensconce ourselves in as far as possible from an unsafe existence, simulating the ideal world we strive towards. The problem with such politics is indeed not the existence of such safe spaces, but rather the fetishisation of them, and the notion that our political activity can be entirely contained within its spheres – that our struggle is, indeed, one primarily over individual thoughts and attitudes rather than systems of power.

Safe spaces are essential sanctuaries in which we can regroup, form bonds of compassion, support and solidarity, and explore, deconstruct and recover from shared (but, importantly, not uniform) experiences of gendered oppression. However, it is here the disconnect often emerges: there is a prevalent belief that such spaces are ends in themselves, that they are havens in which to seek refuge but not platforms from which to initiate struggle, and that proliferation of their often rigidly enforced prefiguration is the key to our liberation. We should not subscribe to a kind of politics which mechanically functionalises experience, conceptualising political utility only in so far as it results in decisive direct action and negating the very real and meaningful benefits of seeking to actualise different social practices and interactions. But nor should we eviscerate such experiences of their structural commonality and their potentiality for transformative realisation of struggle (and, indeed, nor should we define struggle as solely located in action on the streets). To do so would be to adopt a politics of insularity which disregards the necessity of forceful intervention to our empowerment and liberation, which situates the problem inwards, among us, rather than in the nexus of various intersecting structures of power constituted within, reproduced and fortified by capitalism.

The ultimate problem is not in itself oppressive ideas and attitudes which need to be competitively purged (although we should always strive towards self and collective development of our politics and seek always to recognise and redress oppressive behaviours and internal group power dynamics) but oppressive systems which, in order to justify and naturalise their own power and the structural suffering they inflict, propagate and condition us into those ideas. Our personal experiences reflect and embody the operation of structural oppressions, and our politics must in turn amount not to a kind of evasion of those experiences within sacrosanct spaces but necessarily a weaponisation of them, radically oriented towards not refuge from power relations, our adjustment to them, or – at worst – an advancement into their upper ranks, as proposed by the NUS ‘Women in Leadership’ campaign, but a struggle towards their abolition: a struggle towards collective empowerment, transformation and reclamation, and not individual purification, which too often urges us to seek to outperform one another on the extent of our suffering, and to compete to assert a particular monopolistic set of ‘safe’ political ideas that everyone need adhere to.

Positioning ourselves as anti-capitalist feminists within the conversation on safety and identity is, indeed, all the more necessary and timely when the mainstream discourse, particularly in 2015, has fixated upon Universities as bastions of so-called ‘political correctness’ – resulting, at its worst, in This Morning presenters declaring George Lawlor, a particularly sinister conservative from Warwick University who infamously and publicly refused to attend consent classes as a ‘brave man’ and a journalist branding the world a ‘dangerous place for white heterosexual males’. Now, these claims are not only ludicrous but insidious, and trivialising of the trials genuinely oppressed people endure within University and the world at large, yet they represent a much more complex set of political dynamics: not least that these are the defining features of student politics and that there is an (I think ungrounded) public recognition of the entire landscape of Universities, and not just leftist communities, being dominated by no-platforming techniques and identity politics currents of thought.

Whilst this public recognition is stimulated and stoked by a reactionary media establishment intent on undermining and disparaging left-wing, anti-oppression activism – we must ask why the national demo for free education and living grants for all on November the 4th, an aim that will disproportionately and materially benefit women, where the majority defending themselves from police on the front lines certainly were not men and those organising, preparing and flyering relentlessly for the demo itself certainly weren’t either, wasn’t one of the primary focuses of UK student politics in the public discourse. Our ideas have not claimed outward prominence and space and a feminism which challenges capitalist orthodoxy has (save for the rise of Sisters Uncut) faded since the 1970’s from the public conversation. The situation also speaks to something broader about many forms of ‘liberation’ student politics: that they are more concerned with maintaining themselves in (ironically privileged) purist cliques than they are establishing mass movements and broad community bases capable of confronting capitalism and all oppression. The imaginary of Universities as intellectually and socially elite ‘ivory towers’ detached from the realities of the world is only reinforced by this, deemed to be defined more by the policing of ideas than the expansion and exploration of them, and connections with anti-austerity and wider social struggles are often rendered nominal or unfashioned. While we should recognise the media manipulations and its vested interests at play, and examine how the concept of ‘free speech’ is often instrumentalised to excuse oppressive behaviours and defend entrenched social advantage, we must also challenge the political passivity and insularity of many forms of student liberation politics, their erasure of class analysis, and their tendency towards the self-selection of political ideas without genuinely collective oversight and debate. This is a question about the type of world we want, and how we win it: whether we should restrict and regulate our Universities into selective perfection, or struggle together to seize control of our collective destinies.

We hear proudly declared that more women than ever are attending University, yet fail to mention that those who sustain our marketised Universities, disproportionately on casualized and precarious contracts, are women workers – whether that be Graduate Teaching Assistant staff on far below the living wage or hyper-exploited migrant women cleaners who are at constant threat of harassment, policing and deportation by the UK Border Agency, especially under the Tories’ tightened border and immigration controls. We do not hear how women will be forced to pay off more of their student debt for longer than their male counterparts due to the enduring gender pay gap. We do not hear how the cuts to bursaries for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals will force disproportionately mature and BME women students to pay for their own training and subject them to ever-spiralling levels of debt, whilst nurses (a vast majority of whom are women) already within the NHS are overstretched, undervalued and suffering declining wages within the context of austerity-ravaged hospitals.

We do not hear about the cutting and outsourcing of our student support services, which particularly LGBTQ folk and those with mental health issues rely upon. We do not hear how shamefully few black women professors teach at our Universities. We do not hear how unaccommodating Universities are to mothers. We do not hear about how the Higher Education reforms proposes a set of policies that will only further deepen the crises in education, entrenching the commercialisation of our Universities. We do hear Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper decrying Jeremy Corbyn’s new leadership over the Labour party on the basis of him being an ‘old white man’ whilst he was the only candidate in the Labour leadership race who posed a political alternative to a vicious austerity programme which has severely damaged the lives of particularly working class women.

We also hear Apple being lauded by some as progressive for affording their employees the opportunity to freeze their eggs – because, of course, the pursuit of waged work is the only truly meaningful future we might consider and should assume absolute priority. Reproductive duties have always been unwaged, invisibilised, devalued and considered an adjunct to waged work under capitalism, which has resulted in the embedding of sexism and binary gender roles within the operation, maintenance and relations of this harmful economic system. Apple’s manoeuvre simply perpetuates a kind of workplace which is engineered to be exclusionary to women and their needs, where there is always a manufactured division between waged work and the domestic sphere, where only certain unilateral roles and subjectivities, positioned with reference to one authority or another, are permitted, where women are forced always to adjust to the whims of (disproportionately white male) bosses, men (often as partners) and systems of marginalization and oppression, rather than the systems themselves changing.

We recognise the current tools of feminism as not only dismissive of the significance of free education as a demand, but inadequate to achieve our liberation. We as NCAFC Women and Non-Binary must not only further articulate and embed a class struggle, intersectional feminist consciousness within the student movement but also express the limitations of the current approach of student feminism, and feminism more broadly – both where it purports to be radical and where it has clearly been assimilated into neo-liberal hegemony. We must address how the practices and cultures of our movements marginalise and erase us, and how these movements cannot succeed in their intended aims without our skills, perspectives and strengths. We must create a movement where women and non-binary people are not only recognised for their indispensable efforts but where our ideas and experiences are regarded as central and integral to the focus and aspirations of free education struggle.

A feminist politics rooted in a culture of real cooperation and solidarity, and open, collaborative debate (rather than intimidation into adherence to the ‘correct’ set of political opinions), is urgently needed. Importantly, it must be oriented towards confrontation with the state and capital that administrate and enforce gendered oppression, rather than solely towards each other as proxies for various oppressive structures. It must be poised to challenge the bosses who degrade us and exploit us; the police who misgender, undermine, harass and assault us, especially our black and sex worker comrades (and even engage in psychologically abusive, years-long undercover relationships with women activists); the University managers who accrue vast salaries at the expense of casualised women staff; the Government who ruthlessly cuts and marketises education, sexual health services, domestic violence support services and women’s refuges, and who routinely imprisons migrant women – often fleeing male violence and torture –in dehumanising detention centres.

Similarly it must be oriented towards a disturbance of the binary roles and expectations we assign to genders. As Sisters Uncut so succinctly articulate on their demonstration placards – ‘women are powerful and dangerous.’ We expressed this in our occupation of Senate House last year – asserting ourselves autonomously and forcefully, in a world which consigns us to roles of deference and submission, and where militant actions which have changed the world throughout history are always (even in leftist discourse) attributed to men, is illimitably powerful. Expanding our definition of gendered oppression beyond a regularised, uniform, and essentialist experience of ‘womanhood’ (i.e. that you must be assigned female at birth and have endured a particular set of lived experiences to be party to genuine gendered oppression) – which negates the multitudinous oppressions that define our circumstances and material conditions, and is routinely weaponised against trans people to brand our identities and our subjection to oppression illegitimate – is an essential task of our caucus. This is why we recently modified our name from ‘NCAFC Women’ to ‘NCAFC Women and Non-Binary’, and is a politics that we must continue to advance and explore.

Our caucus and first conference thus exists to examine sexist and transphobic practices within our movements apart from those who primarily perpetrate them; to affirm our voices and strength when we are routinely marginalised and erased by society; to expand our understanding of gendered oppression within and outside of the University sphere and its intrinsic conjunction with class struggle; to explore how we can optimise the relation of our activism to the experiences and conditions of that oppression; to discuss how we can intervene in the broader student movement to broaden and bolster its politics; and to provide ourselves with a space for collective rejuvenation, association and empowerment where we can act unhindered, on our own terms, as common subjects of gendered oppression and varying forms of exploitation. Free education is a struggle which agitates towards much more than the end of fees – but towards a liberated and emancipatory educational system and a free society. For this campaign to achieve its aims, our unique perspectives, experiences and actions as women and non-binary people must be deployed, emphasised and centred. Free education is not simply a campaign that is important to feminist activists – feminism is essential to it. Free education is not merely a feminist demand, nor is feminism incident to it, as a kind of supplement or appendage. Free education cannot be conceptualised in all its dimensions, specificities and nuances without feminism.

Feminism is integral to our complexity, power and – ultimately – our capacity to win as a movement. Now more than ever, when the very future of education as a public good is threatened, this conference is essential. As with struggle throughout history, it has been women and those of marginalised gender identities that have led the charge against austerity – through Sisters Uncut, Focus E15 Mothers and, all too often forgotten, in the student movement. Austerity cannot be defeated without us – and losing this battle would mean a very real (and disproportionate) material damage to our lives. The market is advancing on us at all angles – and we must be equipped and prepared to fight.

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Are students really workers? Wed, 20 Jan 2016 19:08:23 +0000 This article is an opinion piece written by NCAFC member Ben Towse. Do you want to respond, or write about another topic for Please get in touch via! It’s become increasingly common on the student left and within NCAFC to say that students are workers. It’s not a new idea but it certainly […]]]>

Drawing of a person holding a placard reading "strike"
This article is an opinion piece written by NCAFC member Ben Towse. Do you want to respond, or write about another topic for Please get in touch via!

It’s become increasingly common on the student left and within NCAFC to say that students are workers. It’s not a new idea but it certainly seems to be back on the rise. At our conference it was one argument given for the proposal that NCAFC should affiliate to a syndicalist workers’ union like the IWW (which was voted down with a general consensus in favour of further discussion), and it is argued by some that a student strike should be understood to have inherent power as a withdrawal of labour, exercising leverage in the same way as a strike by employees in a workplace.

I want to explain why I am sceptical about this idea. “Students are workers” is an attractive slogan, and students do indeed share certain things in common with workers. But I don’t think that being a students are simply a type of worker, or that being a student is the same as being a worker. This isn’t just a semantic dispute about defining the word “worker”. (For the purposes of this article, by “workers” and the “working class” I mean the vast majority of society, who don’t own businesses but have to rely either on selling our labour for a wage or salary, or on benefits.) Whether we think that students are workers informs our understanding of the situation in education, and how we can take action. So the wrong answer to this question can lead to drawing the wrong conclusions about the student movement and our tactics and strategies.

These are initial thoughts, however, and I’d welcome responses to this piece – let’s carry on discussing.

Students are (future) workers

I’ll start with the positive – what do students hold in common with workers?

First, it’s definitely true that the student movement ought to see itself as aligned to the workers’ movement. Most of us will be seeking employment on leaving education rather than being employers ourselves – not to mention how many of us work during our studies. So it is in our interest that workers win struggles for decent jobs and better pay and conditions.

Likewise, the struggle over the nature and purpose of education is part of the divide between the interests of workers and employers, with employers and the government that serves them seeking to make sure education is dedicated to serving them: training us to be more productive employees for them. They want an education system focussed on testing and sorting humans into different sets, and prepping each to serve employers in an appropriate type of work. On the other hand, our interests and those of the working class lie in fighting for an education system that is genuinely free and open to all. The kind of education system that would serve our interests should foster the free enquiry and development that can help every individual reach their fullest potential and can help us collectively with the understanding and intellectual tools to fight for, and participate fully in, a genuinely liberated, equal and democratic society. (As far as I’m concerned, that means a socialist society!)

Another reason that the student movement, like any progressive cause, needs to be aligned to the workers’ movement is that within capitalism, the working class is uniquely placed to force change – at the base of capitalism, it is the working class on whose labour the ruling class relies to make things, keep everything running and (crucially!) to create their wealth. This gives the working class unique leverage to force political and economic change, if it is organised democratically to exercise that leverage. Not only should the student movement support the workers’ movement: students need workers’ active support too, if we’re going to win our biggest goals.

Collectivism and unions

Second, students are like workers in the sense that we need collectivism to defend our interests. An individualist perspective poses students as passive consumers of education, whose power is limited to our purchasing power in the education market, and atomises us: isolated individuals investing in a boost to our employability, in order to compete with each other in the job market. This is the same kind of perspective that reduces student unions to little more than social clubs and commercial services.

The left in the student movement fights for a collectivist approach – the idea that we can wield greater power to defend and advance our interests through collective action. Thus the student movement should be informed by the same lessons and principles as the workers’ movement. That means building and participating in mass student unions – unions that seek to organise all students together on the basis of our shared material interests, through a bottom-up democracy, and that fight for those interests using the strength of all their members in collective actions.

Working, striking and leverage

However, despite these commonalities between students and workers, when we get to the base point of the slogan that “students are workers”, I think the argument falls down. This is the idea that being a student is like being a worker, and the work that students do in studying can usefully be considered as similar to the work done by employees in a workplace. This idea is often used to argue that we can therefore exercise leverage in the same way as waged workers when we withdraw our labour.

The clout that workers can wield by withdrawing labour – a strike – relies on two crucial facts. First, each hour and each task of that work contributes in a necessary way to keeping the enterprise going and making the employer money. If you stop working, or refuse particular duties, that has an impact on your employer’s profits, or it stops or degrades a service they provide. Second, the employer needs that work more than you do. The employer has a direct interest in ensuring the services you provide, or the products you make, continue – but you mostly just need your wages. For as long as you can get by otherwise – for instance on strike pay from your union and from supporters – you have the upper hand over your employer, because they need to end the strike more urgently than you do. You can use that upper hand to force concessions.

There are many other areas of work that are necessary to capitalism and to improving employers’ profits in a general, less direct sense. The work that students do as students is one of those. With an education system set up – as the minister for Universities Jo Johnson puts it – as a “pipeline” supplying graduates to employers, disruption of that pipeline is bad for business.

However, it does not straightforwardly follow that withdrawal of all the different types of work capitalism relies on can be wielded in the same way as a workplace strike.

In the case of a student strike, the work we do is much more indirectly linked to employers’ business. A student strike can indeed apply pressure to the employers’ class collectively if it threatens the timely graduation of an entire cohort of prospective employees, forcing the employers who need those workers to press the government for a resolution (this was a factor in the gains made by the 2012 Quebec student strike, which lasted months and involved a substantial proportion of the total student population). However, this power doesn’t scale straightforwardly to more limited strikes. The specific pieces of work we carry out in shorter timescales – essays, lab projects, homeworks etc. – don’t have the same importance to capitalism. We can’t halt the gears of capitalism just by refusing to show up for a day, or a few days, in the same way that workers can.

There are some particular types of student that are exceptions to this. Some of us actually are workers during our studies. For instance, the NHS relies on the unpaid labour of student nurses, and universities’ research output relies on the research labour of PhD students. We should be thinking about how to organise in those circumstances – for instance, organising student nurses with their colleagues in health worker unions and potentially demanding wages, and by considering whether researchers working towards their PhD should be considered students at all, rather than research workers on the first rung of the career ladder. But the bulk of taught students’ work is not like these cases, at least not to anything like the same degree.

This is not to say that student walkouts and strikes can’t wield power – they can. But in order to employ these tactics right, we need to understand exactly how.

First, there is a strong element of demonstrative, protest-like effect. A walkout or strike is a big, public, attention-grabbing political statement – like a march or a stunt. It can impact political debate, put an issue on the table, and influence the ideas of the wider population. It is popular in some parts of the left to dismiss demonstrative action as completely ineffectual, and it’s true that it doesn’t wield the same power as the direct economic leverage of a strike and sometimes it’s not enough. However, even in a limited democracy like the one we live in, government and institutions have to be at least somewhat responsive to public opinion and to spectacular demonstrations of that opinion.

Second, it matters what students do while on strike. Not writing one essay or coming to a particular class might not be a spanner in the gears of capitalism, but massive, disruptive protests that bring a city to a halt, blockade businesses or occupy key sites can be. Which is why everyone in NCAFC agrees we would need to argue for active, not passive participation in any student strike – strikers shouldn’t simply stay in bed but take to the streets.

Third, the relation of the impact of a student strike to its duration must work differently to that for a workplace strike. Of course, in both cases, a longer strike is more powerful. But while in a workplace every hour or task refused imposes a cost on the employer, for a student strike, what starts out as more demonstrative in nature only more slowly begins to threaten the material interests of employers, as the risk increases that the supply of an entire cohort of prospective workers will be impacted.

This is all a bit of a simplification, of course – a whole field of books and theses could be produced analysing the impacts and powers of different types of strike. But I think it’s essential to understand these themes and features of a student strike: both in order to wield the tactic as effectively as possible so we can win our battles, and so that when we do decide to try and persuade people to participate in one, we can do so more successfully and honestly.


So students do share plenty in common with workers. We have shared goals and interests. The same principles of mass, collective, democratic organising and action apply to both our movements. And it’s essential for us to recognise that an organised working class represents the most powerful force in society for effecting progressive change, and so orient ourselves towards the labour movement. But it is wrong to say that to be a student is actually to be a type of worker, or that students’ work plays a role within the functioning of capitalism that is comparable to the labour carried out by employees in any workplace. More importantly, by misunderstanding our situation, that idea risks leading to tactical and strategic mistakes for the student movement.

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Emergency protest: stop the cuts to maintenance grants! Tue, 19 Jan 2016 00:01:05 +0000 Contact 07901844980, 07749263622, 07481190243 This Tuesday, the Labour Party has called an opposition day debate on the scrapping of maintenance grants. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is organising a static protest in Parliament Square to coincide with the debate, and to demand a reversal of this disgraceful attack on working class students, and to show that […]]]>

free ed flare banner

Contact 07901844980, 07749263622, 07481190243
This Tuesday, the Labour Party has called an opposition day debate on the scrapping of maintenance grants. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is organising a static protest in Parliament Square to coincide with the debate, and to demand a reversal of this disgraceful attack on working class students, and to show that we will not let them get away with this.
Last Thursday, it took just 18 MPs 90 minutes to scrap maintenance grants for the million poorest students. They did so without a debate in Parliament; in a backroom committee which most of the people these cuts are affecting will never have even heard of. And the ministers who made this decision benefited from free higher education and grants themselves.
Hope Worsdale, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “This is not only a direct attack on working class students, but it also shows the government’s flagrant disregard for the most basic democratic processes. The Tories are clearly scared of having their policies scrutinised and exposed to public anger.”
Students will be gathering in Parliament Square on Tuesday to demand #GrantsNotDebt for all students and an education system that doesn’t shut out the most disadvantaged in society.
Bring banners, placards, noise and energy! (Or cameras, notepads and dicta-phones, depending on who you are).
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NCAFC Women and Non Binary conference *AGENDA ANNOUNCED* Mon, 11 Jan 2016 20:13:59 +0000 The conference will take place at Warwick University from the 29th to the 31st of January. You can register here and find out more information here.     FRIDAY (for people who have to arrive early) Location: Warwick Campus Film: Live Nude Girls Unite (& make NCAFC Women Banner) SATURDAY 10.00 – Registration 10.30 – […]]]>

ncafcwomenThe conference will take place at Warwick University from the 29th to the 31st of January. You can register here and find out more information here.



FRIDAY (for people who have to arrive early)
Location: Warwick Campus
Film: Live Nude Girls Unite (& make NCAFC Women Banner)

10.00 – Registration
10.30 – Opening Remarks and Plenary: Women Workers in Education: fighting casualisation, outsourcing and low wages
10.15 – Break
11.30 – Workshop Session A
1) Gender and mental health in activism and education
2) Fighting the cuts to women’s services with direct action
3) The Fight for NHS Bursaries is the Fight for non-traditional Students
12.30 – Liberation caucus: Black
13.00 – Lunch
13.30 – Workshop Session B
1) Social Reproduction
2) Women in the Kurdish Struggle
3) Critiquing liberal feminism and how to intervene in your FemSoc
14.30 – Liberation Caucus: LGBTQ
15.00 – Break
15.10 – Discussion on Sexual Violence on the Left
16.30 – Break
16.40 – Workshop Session C
1) Fighting the Green Paper should be a Priority for Liberation (why and how)
2) Non-Binary Students and NCAFC
3) ‪#‎RhodesMustFall‬: women and colonial legacies in education
17.40 – Break
17.50 – Workshop Session D
1) How the Further Education Cuts affect women and migrants
2) Direct action is not just for the men: critiquing macho culture and safe space culture
3) Disabled Women and the Cuts
18.50 – Break
19.00 – Plenary: Women and the Migrant Struggle with Movement for Justice
19.45 – close
Evening: Social! – Warwick Anti-Sexism: Can’t Touch This (Feminist Club Night)

9.45 – Registration
10.00 – Plenary: Free Education is a Feminist Demand
10.45 – Liberation Caucus: Trans
11.15 – Break
11.30 – Direct Action planning: future WANBODA (Women and Non-Binary Only Direct Action), International Women’s Day, Priority Campaign for NCAFC Women
12.45 – Lunch
13.15 – Liberation Caucus – Disabled
13.45 – Should NCAFC Women and Non-Binary caucus intervene in the NUS Women’s Conference/Campaign?
14.45 – Break
14.55 – Democratic Session Part 1: NCAFC Women and Non-Binary Political Statement
16.00 – Break
16.10 – Democratic Session Part 2: NCAFC Women and Non-Binary Political Statement
16.50 – Plenary: Women Unite and (Student) Strike and Closing Remarks
17.30 – Conference close

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CALL OUT: Oppose Fascists in Dover on 30th January! Sun, 10 Jan 2016 14:02:07 +0000 GIAJ20151017C-029_C.JPG  Refugees Welcome Here Demo in Dover. Market Square to the Port of Dover. Picture: Andy Jones

Refugees Welcome Here Demo in Dover.
Market Square to the Port of Dover.
Picture: Andy Jones

Political conditions in the UK are ripe for a re-emergence of a fascist street movement.

The refugee crisis, the rise of the far right in Europe, a badly organised left, and an impending economic crisis all contribute to a situation that holds a lot of potential for fascists. The role of anti-fascism in this kind of situation is to stop racist and fascist violence, prevent a swing to the right, and make possible the growth of a left-wing mass movement.

This is why it is so important that students around the country come out against the fascist National Front in Dover on Saturday 30th January. Fascist mobilisations at the border cannot be allowed to go unopposed, and must be countered at every possible moment.

NCAFC has worked with parts of the local and national left to push a radical, no borders message in Dover – with the Open Borders Open Europe demo a few months ago attracting 500 demonstrators and making our no borders position clear. Now we have to go back, to show the National Front that their poisonous, violent, racist ideology will not be allowed to develop.

All out to oppose the fash in Dover! Mobilise students from your university or college to join the Antifascist Network mobilisation.


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Keep Up the Fight Against Prevent: Solidarity with activists attacked by right-wing media! Fri, 08 Jan 2016 19:01:54 +0000 On January 7, 2016, Daily Mail published an article attacking NUS Vice-President Welfare and NCAFC member Shelly Asquith and other activists campaigning against the Prevent agenda, accusing them of being terrorist supporters. The article (which can be found here: is rife with inaccuracies, sexism, and right-wing vitriol aimed at discrediting Asquith’s excellent work and […]]]>

prevent children_in_a_classroom

On January 7, 2016, Daily Mail published an article attacking NUS Vice-President Welfare and NCAFC member Shelly Asquith and other activists campaigning against the Prevent agenda, accusing them of being terrorist supporters. The article (which can be found here: is rife with inaccuracies, sexism, and right-wing vitriol aimed at discrediting Asquith’s excellent work and the whole principle of campaigning against the racist and repressive Prevent programme.

We would like to express our solidarity with student activists attacked in the article, including Shelly Asquith and NUS Black Students’ Officer Malia Bouattia, and our unreserved opposition to Prevent. Prevent is a major clampdown on freedom of expression, driven by a racist and Islamophobic agenda. It puts on university workers the duty of spying on students, and has already led to countless absurd cases of scapegoating Muslim, Black and minority ethnic students, such as Mohammed Umar Farooq – a postgraduate counter-terrorism student who was investigated under Prevent for reading about terrorism. Daily Mail is being hypocritical when it criticises students’ unions’ no-platform policies as a threat to freedom of speech, while actively supporting legislation that is used to silence and repress students.

It is not unusual for the right-wing press to launch vicious personal attacks on those who fight racism and oppression. We need to stand with left-wing activists, facing hateful smears from right-wing media, as well as with Muslims affected by institutional racism, of which Prevent is a clear example.

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NCAFC national committee meeting – 16 and 17 January Thu, 07 Jan 2016 13:31:44 +0000 On January 16th and 17th, the newly elected national committee of NCAFC will be meeting to discuss the immediate future of NCAFC, the student strike and the wider student movement. The meeting is open to all members of the campaign – you can come, propose agenda items and speak. You can see a facebook event for […]]]>

studentprotestOn January 16th and 17th, the newly elected national committee of NCAFC will be meeting to discuss the immediate future of NCAFC, the student strike and the wider student movement. The meeting is open to all members of the campaign – you can come, propose agenda items and speak.

You can see a facebook event for the meeting is here. It will start at 11am on the 16th and close at 5pm on the 17th.

At present, discussions already put forward for the agenda include:

  • The student strike and the fight against the green paper
  • Student struggles in and around the NHS: junior doctors and nurses’ bursaries
  • Internal functions, including finance, comms, press and membership subcommittees, as well as the Secretariat
  • NCAFC’s intervention in the National Union of Students, including selection of candidates (see below)

If you want to add an agenda item, or if you are a non-NC member and need accommodation, please drop us a line at

If you are considering running for election at NUS national conference and want NCAFC’s support, please send a short statement to before 12 noon on Friday 15th January. We can then let you know the timings of when the NUS discussion and selection will take place.

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