What should a National Education Service look like? Tell us what you think

Following our January conference, NCAFC is facilitating discussions in order to develop a vision for a National Education Service. We want to hear your opinions, ideas and arguments – please let us know if you’d like to contribute! In this article, Ben Towse from UCL Labour and Josh Berlyne from the Free University of Sheffield explain why we’re starting this conversation.

fist_pencil_square_borderNCAFC has always fought for more than just proper education funding and the abolition of tuition fees. Since we were founded in 2010, we’ve debated and developed ideas about what a democratic, liberatory education system would look like, and we’ve gone out and argued for those ideas.

It is easy for concrete ideas about the reform or transformation of our education system to be niche and wonk-ish, boring and difficult to articulate.  Indeed, proposals for education reform typically come from wonks in Westminster offices.  As a result, movements lose ownership over ideas, and it becomes difficult to bring proposals under a banner which can amass the kind of support needed to force them through.  The National Education Service has the potential to be that banner.

When he proposed it during the 2015 Labour leadership elections, Jeremy Corbyn spoke of an education system which would be free to access from cradle to grave.  He spoke about reversing adult education cuts by raising corporation tax; providing universal free childcare; abolishing tuition fees; and providing good, well-paid apprenticeships.

Almost two years on, the idea of a National Education Service is yet to be seriously developed.  This gives us, the grassroots, the opportunity to take ownership of it.  Through democratic debate and discussion across party lines, NCAFC can—and must—popularise the idea beyond the Labour left.  Only then will we see transformative ideas made real.

That’s why NCAFC is facilitating a conversation in which students and workers can put forward, debate and refine our ideas about a National Education Service. We want this conversation to lead to a set of democratically-adopted, concrete demands and proposals that we’ll campaign to for.

Our January conference included workshops to kick-start this discussion (reports from these workshops will be posted soon) and our members agreed a proposal that set out some basic ideas. We said that a National Education Service could:

  • Be universally accessible free of charge, with financial support through living grants/stipends for all.
  • Replace the chaos of market competition between institutions with an integrated service that is rationally and democratically organised to serve social good, rather the interests of the capitalist class.
  • Build on existing ideas about the “Comprehensive University” to break down arbitrary barriers within the curriculum and between streams of education, including between further and higher education, and “vocational” and “academic” study.
  • Be publicly owned and secular, and democratically governed by its students, workers and the communities it serves.
  • Through democratic control of the curriculum, allow us to overturn the sometimes overwhelming dominance of ruling ideologies in what is taught, opening space for radical, subversive, liberatory and marginalised ideas and perspectives.
  • Provide its workers with secure, decently-paid jobs and good conditions.
  • Include universal free childcare.
  • Be well-resourced, by taxing the rich and their businesses and expropriating the banks.

Now we want your thoughts. Do you want to write about a particular aspect of the education system? Do you want to respond to any of the ideas above, or any that were put forward at the conference? Have you read something in this debate that you disagree with, or you want to build on? Please write an article for us, or if you prefer, record a video or a podcast. We’re looking for contributions from our members, and more broadly too – in particular from education workers as well as students. You can get in touch at [email protected]. And for members, you can also debate and discuss on NCAFC’s webforum.

Over to you!

Motions & Amendments for Conference January 2017

Graphic reading "NCAFC Winter Conference 2017 // University of Warwick // 14th-15th January"

In the run up to our 2017 Winter conference 14-15 January in Warwick, affiliated groups have submitted the following motions, and members have submitted the following amendments, about what NCAFC should be campaigning on and how the National Campaign should be run.

For more info on motions, amendments and how our conference democracy works, check out this guide.

If you haven’t registered for conference yet, make sure you do (fill out the registration form) and book your transport today! You can find more info about what to expect via the Facebook event and the guide/agenda.


Political motions:

Organisational motions:

Appendix


Political motions

No to the “good vs. bad migrants” rhetoric!

Submitted by Warwick for Free Education

NCAFC notes:

  1. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has recently announced plans to restrict international students visas.
  2. These plans include linking universities’ ability to accept international students to “teaching quality,” most likely measured byTEF scores.
  3. In recent years, the government has already scrapped the post-study work visa, introduced NHS charges for non-EU students and deported tens of thousands of international students.
  4. Often the response to attacks on international students is to insist that they are not migrants and should be treated differently. This is the approach taken not only by Vice-Chancellors but also by sections of the student movement.
  5. The arguments often rely on how much international students contribute to the British economy by “funding our universities” (justifying sky-high fees) or by emphasising the differences between students and migrant workers instead of challenging prejudice against both.

NCAFC believes:

  1. That freedom of movement is a right and we need to resist any attempts to distinguish between “good” and “bad” migrants.
  2. That the left needs to defend all migrants on principle, not on the basis of how much they contribute to the economy.
  3. That attacks on international students and other migrant groups are based on the same racist and xenophobic ideology, and can only be defeated through active solidarity, not creating further divisions.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To campaign for freedom of movement and the right to a free, accessible education for everyone, regardless of nationality.
  2. To fight against any further attacks on international students, including through direct action if necessary.
  3. To challenge the “students are not migrants” approach within the student movement and more broadly on the left.

Amendment

Submitted by Connor Woodman

  1. Delete believes 3: “That the left needs to defend all migrants on principle, not on the basis of how much they contribute to the economy” and replace with: “3. That the left needs to defend all migrants on principle, as well as on the basis of how much they contribute to the economy.”

 

Hold the line: defend free movement

Submitted by Workers Liberty

NCAFC notes:

  1. The recent slide into anti-immigration, anti-free- movement politics by even some people on the left of the Labour Party.

NCAFC believes:

  1. We have to continue to defend free movement without shame, compromise or capitulation.
  2. It is a lie that free movement is against the interests of working class people. First, because migrant workers are part of the working class too – our politics of fighting for workers’ rights does not respect the borders imposed by our rulers. Second, because the often-repeated claim that immigration substantially depresses pay and conditions is not actually supported by the evidence.
  3. Restricting immigration will therefore not help either UK-born or migrant working-class people. Instead, this politics serve to divide workers, damaging our ability to organise and fight against the common enemy that is actually responsible for low wages, shortages of housing and jobs, and overstretched public services – the rich and powerful, and the parties and politicians who serve their class interests.
  4. The left needs to politically combat anti-migrant ideas, and advocate real solutions in their place, not concede the debate to right-wing lies.
  5. The result of the EU referendum does not oblige us to stop working to change minds and change policies.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To continue fighting to defend and extend free movement, and to place the blame for the problems facing working class people where it belongs – not on migrants, but the rich and powerful, the ruling class.
  2. To fight uncompromisingly against capitulation by the left on this issue, especially by parts of the Labour left, Labour Students left, and the trade union movement.
  3. To argue and campaign for a programme of immediate real solutions to the problems facing working class people, including: uniting migrant and British-born workers in trade unions to fight for improved pay and conditions for all; reversing the anti-union laws; raising and enforcing the minimum wage; decent housing accessible to all; secure, decently-paid jobs, training and education for everyone; serious taxes on the rich and their businesses in order to redistribute wealth and reverse cuts, fund decent public services and rebuild the NHS.

Amendments

Submitted by Michael Muir: 

  1. Delete the word “defend” from Resolves.
  2. Delete Resolves 2: “To fight uncompromisingly against capitulation by the left on this issue, especially by parts of the Labour left, Labour Students left, and the trade union movement.”

 

The campaign to #stoptheHEreforms

Submitted by Workers Liberty

NCAFC notes

  1. The higher education reforms are still progressing through Parliament, with changes so far securing only very minor improvements (e.g. the addition of token student representation at the proposed Office for Students).
  2. We successfully passed proposals through NUS conference 2016 to organise a national demonstration in November, and to boycott the NSS unless and until the reforms are withdrawn, starting now in 2017.

NCAFC believes

  1. Fighting the reforms should remain a priority campaign for NCAFC.
  2. We have secured real improvements in NUS’s approach, compared to previous campaigns. However, it has still been lacking.
  3. We must be honest that the national demonstration was not the success it should have been. There were “managerial” failures by the NUS leadership and student unions, but fundamentally the problem was political:
    1. The leadership made the demo about everything in general, instead of foregrounding the clear and specific demands, which could inspire and explain, that we set out in policy (on the HE reforms as well as grants and FE cuts). We need to continue arguing that actions must be linked to uncompromising and straightforwardly understandable demands and slogans.
    2. The leadership organised the demonstration as a march in London. But for activists, the day of a demo is only the tip of an iceberg. The process of organising a demo should be used to build local groups, educate, argue, organise and persuade in many local areas. Local issues and demands should be linked to the programme of the demo. The march itself should be followed by a vigorous and well-planned campaign of subsequent action.
  4. The NSS boycott has value as an industrial-style tactic: complementing purely protest action by materially disrupting the running of the education system to gain leverage for concessions. To win, we may have to maintain the boycott beyond this year.
  5. As well as contending with right-wingers who have attempted to undermine and disrupt the action, we need to address a number of failings by the NUS leadership:
    1. They have bypassed democratic policy to set a different negotiating position – not to drop the reforms, but just to break the link between TEF scores and fee levels. We need a clear, straightforward political message and negotiating position, not a technocratic and watered-down one.
    2. At times, they have been timid and apologetic about the action.
    3. They have not built the boycott with as much vigour as they could, and don’t seem to have accepted the scale of the operation needed, beyond working with sabbs, to speak directly to students nationally and equip campus activists with resources.
    4. Sabbatical officers have been treated as gatekeepers to their unions’ members, and as if they have the right to determine whether and how NUS may implement decisions already made. Local officers should be called on to support the strategy’s implementation as a basic point of collective union solidarity, and NUS should promote the action to all students, not limit outreach to only the campuses where officers endorse the action.
  6. There is already a right-wing backlash against the actions organised so far. We should not be bounced into uncritically defending the current leadership. We need to defend the value of protest and direct action on the basis of our own understanding of how it can best be carried out, and keep constructively criticising, arguing and contesting in NUS to improve the organisation of the campaign.

NCAFC resolves

  1. To keep the fight to stop the HE reforms as a major priority for the coming period. If they pass into law, the campaign will call for their reversal.
  2. To support this, we call for further protest and direct action, and we will be clear about our political criticisms of the NUS leadership, and our alternative proposals, in order to press for change.
  3. Politically, we maintain the campaign needs to foreground clear, specific slogans and demands, while adding context with a wider political response: a publicly-owned education system, run democratically for social good.

Amendments

Submitted by Connor Woodman:

  1. Add Notes: “3. That the House of Lords voted against the Higher Education and Research bill in January 2017″

 

Developing a vision for a National Education Service

Submitted by Workers Liberty

NCAFC notes

  1. Jeremy Corbyn has floated the proposal of a cradle-to- grave, free National Education Service. He has specifically raised: reversing adult education cuts to build lifelong learning by raising corporation tax; universal free childcare; abolishing tuition fees; equalising the minimum wage for apprentices and providing good apprenticeships.

NCAFC believes

  1. These proposals are good but much of what an NES would mean is still unspecified. That means we have a big opportunity to influence its development through political debate and agitation.
  2. NCAFCers have devoted a lot of thought to what our vision of a revolutionised education system might look like. A policy like this, potentially to be taken up by the Labour Party, is a concrete vehicle through which that vision could be thrust into high-profile public debate and hopefully translated into reality.
  3. Transforming the education system cannot be successfully imposed from above –there has to be some grassroots ownership of the programme, and mobilisation from below to support, and hold to account, its implementation.
  4. This weekend includes a lot of discussion of the NES, so this motion should not pre-empt that with a finished policy. However, based on NCAFC’s existing principles and previous discussions, we can say that an NES should:
    1. Be universally accessible free of charge, with financial support through living grants/stipends for all.
    2. Replace the chaos of market competition between institutions with an integrated service that is rationally and democratically organised to serve social good, rather the interests of the capitalist class.
    3. Build on existing ideas about the “Comprehensive University” to break down arbitrary barriers within the curriculum and between streams of education, including between further and higher education, and “vocational” and “academic” study.
    4. Be publicly owned and secular, and democratically governed by its students, workers and the communities it serves.
    5. Through democratic control of the curriculum, allow us to overturn the sometimes overwhelming dominance of ruling ideologies in what is taught, opening space for radical, subversive, liberatory and marginalised ideas and perspectives.
    6. Provide its workers with secure, decently-paid jobs and good conditions.
    7. Include universal free childcare.
    8. Be well resourced, by taxing the rich and their businesses and expropriating the banks.

NCAFC resolves

  1. Based on these points, this conference’s workshops, and previous and ongoing discussions, the NC will lead development of a set of proposals setting out our vision for an NES.
  2. To discuss with organised education workers in particular, as we develop these proposals.
  3. To agitate and campaign for the adoption of these proposals, particularly in the student and trade union movements and by Labour.

Amendment

Submitted by Michael Muir:

  1. Delete the word “secular” from Believes 4 (d)

 

The battle in the Labour Party

Submitted by Workers Liberty

NCAFC believes:

  1. NCAFC is, and should remain, independent from political parties and open to activists who are members of different parties and of none.
  2. Nevertheless, we have previously voted to recognise involvement in the Labour Party as one useful course of action left-wing education activists can take, due to the pivotal role that its student wing has played in NUS, its powerful position in UK politics, and its links to the organised workers’ movement. We have voted to offer support to Labour leftists campaigning to re-orient Labour and Labour Students towards free education, encouraged activists to get involved, and supported Jeremy Corbyn’s successful bid to lead the party.
  3. Now the situation in Labour – a battle to win the party for socialism – is an historic opportunity to advance the left, including the causes and ideas for which NCAFC stands.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. There is worthwhile work to be done – in terms of both local activism and advancing left-wing politics – in campus Labour Clubs and local Labour parties. NCAFC should support and encourage this work.
  2. To be successful in the Labour Party, as elsewhere, the left needs genuinely grassroots-democratic organising, through which we can debate and develop our ideas, policies and proposals for the party, and campaign to change minds and shift the wider party. This is similar to the basis on which NCAFC has organised in the student union movement. The establishment of Momentum is welcome. It has the potential to be that organisation, and so the present debates about its form, purpose and politics are crucial.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To remain a united front of education activists from different organisations and none.
  2. To encourage and support the struggle in the Labour Party as one useful avenue, and therefore to offer support and encouragement to student activists getting involved, particularly in campus Labour Clubs.
  3. As some of us get involved in Labour, the Labour left and Momentum, to bring with not only our politics around education specifically, but also NCAFC’s broader ideas and attitudes on the importance of participatory democracy, open debate and political clarity, for developing and advancing left-wing politics.

Amendments

Submitted by Michael Muir:

  1. Add Believes: “3. NCAFC is not, cannot be and should not be a Labour Party or Momentum faction. To do so would be to interfere with its core function as a broad, grassroots activist organisation.”
  2. Add Believes: “4. Momentum Youth and Students is a broad, democratic and open faction for young people and students on the Labour Left.”
  3. Delete: Resolves: “1. To remain a united front of education activists from different organisations and none.” and replace with “1. To encourage and support activists as they fight for a policy of a free, liberated and decolonised education within the Labour Party’s youth and student structures.”
  4. Delete Resolves: “3. As some of us get involved in Labour, the Labour left and Momentum, to bring with not only our politics around education specifically, but also NCAFC’s broader ideas and attitudes on the importance of participatory democracy, open debate and political clarity, for developing and advancing left-wing politics.” And replace with: ‘”3. To encourage NCAFC members to involve themselves in Momentum Youth and Students as the only broad left faction in Young Labour capable of establishing meaningful political and organisational change.”

 

Organisational motions

Submitting motions (Constitutional amendment)

Submitted by Warwick for Free Education

NCAFC believes:

  1. Currently, only groups affiliated to NCAFC can submit motions to NCAFC Conferences.
  2. The nature of student activism has changed. Whereas in the past NCAFC membership mostly consisted of activists in local anti-cuts groups, there are now fewer active groups, and many NCAFC members come from campuses where there isn’t one.
  3. While we should still encourage building local groups, we need to acknowledge the changes in the student movement and make sure all NCAFC members have the ability to propose policy.
  4. Summer Conference is equally important as Winter Conference, and should have the power to amend the constitution.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To amend the constitution as follows:

Delete 4.A.4.2 and replace with

Motions can be proposed by: local anti-cuts groups and other groups affiliated to NCAFC, the National Committee, or a group of at least seven NCAFC members.

Delete 4.A.7.1 and replace with

To debate motions and constitutional amendments

Amendments

Submitted by Ed Maltby:

  1. Add believes: “5. In many cases where there is no separate NCAFC-affiliated activist/anti-cuts group, NCAFC supporters will be active in other leftwing groupings such as Labour Clubs.”
  2. Add believes: “6. We should adapt our training and written guidance to activists to this situation: educational material from NCAFC should not presume the existence of anti-cuts groups on the 2011 model: NCAFC should support the creation of radical student organisations at the campus level that fit the current situation.”

 

Abolishing the Secretariat (Constitutional amendment)

Submitted by the National Committee

NCAFC notes:

  1. The Secretariat is currently appointed by the National Committee (NC). It has the task of overseeing democratic procedure at NCAFC events, including conference and in practice, at times, meetings of the National Committee.
  2. A proposal to make the Secretariat elected was rejected at the last winter conference.
  3. It has often been difficult to find appropriate and willing candidates for the post.
  4. At various times during the post’s existence it has been unfilled, or its occupant(s) have been unable to perform the role, and the National Committee has had to perform these roles itself. This has not been a problem. NC members have been assigned to make arrangements for meetings, and have formed working groups to oversee the running of conferences.
  5. Despite the good work of members of the Secretariat over the time the post has existed, this is arguably preferable as NC members, being elected, are more democratically accountable.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To amend the constitution to abolish the Secretariat, and transfer oversight of its responsibilities to the NC.
    1. Amend 4.A.3.1. – “The NC and the Secretariat has ultimate responsibility for setting the agenda of conferences and other events, and ensuring their smooth and democratic running
    2. Amend 4.A.4.1. – “A motions and proposals deadline must be set by the Secretariat the NC, or its delegated conference working group, ahead of conference”
    3. Amend 4.B. – NCAFC has two one standing committees: the National Committee (NC) and the Secretariat
    4. Delete all of 4.B.3. and 4.B.4.

 

A New Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure

Submitted by the National Committee

NCAFC notes:

  1. Our Summer Conference 2016 instructed the National Committee to propose a replacement for our existing Safer Spaces Policy.

NCAFC resolves

  1. To adopt the Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure contained in the appendix to this motions document.

Amendment

Submitted by Andrew Warren

  1. Delete point 3 of the Complaints Procedure: “If the complaint is deemed serious enough, a group of NC members should be convened to investigate the complaint. Factors such as the diversity of the group and members’ relationships to the accused/complainant (unless submitted anonymously) should be considered to ensure as representative and fair a group as possible.” And replace with: “If the complaint is deemed serious enough, a standing committee appointed by the NC will investigate the complaint. When appointing the standing committee, factors such as the diversity of the group and members’ relationships to the accused/complainant (unless submitted anonymously) should be considered to ensure as representative and fair a group as possible. The NC will also appoint reserves, to take over if a committee member is unavailable or unsuitable due to their relationship to the accused.”

 

NCAFC & direct action

Submitted by Warwick for Free Education

NCAFC notes:

  1. That since the inception of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the belief that grassroots direct action is an integral part of achieving political and social change has been a core principle of the organisation.
  2. That this vocal belief has set NCAFC apart from many other groups and organisations on the student left.
  3. That over the last couple of years, levels of grassroots activity happening on campuses has decreased somewhat.
  4. That, nonetheless, NCAFC continues to be contacted by activists asking for support and advice when it comes to planning and carrying out direct action.

NCAFC believes:

  1. That direct action will never not be relevant, useful and important in the fight for free, democratic and accessible education.
  2. That recent successes such as the occupation at Warwick have shown that commitment to direct action still exists in the movement and that it can be very effective.
  3. That in the fight against this government’s plans to marketise higher education, direct action on both local and national levels is essential, and thus we need activists and SU officers across the country to be equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to plan and carry out direct action.
  4. That as well as practical knowledge, it’s important that activists have access to strong political and historical arguments as to why direct action is powerful and necessary.
  5. That NUS has started to do more work in this area, but that a lot is still lacking.
  6. That it’s important that within the active membership, and especially the National Committee, of NCAFC, we have a significant number of activists with first-hand experience and knowledge when it comes to direct action, who can be called upon to share that expertise with fellow members and/or with activist groups if requested.
  7. That whilst it’s important to recognise the ways in which the student movement is shifting and changing, and to adapt our political strategies accordingly, we must ensure that we do not lose all connection with direct action and that it remains a core aspect of our broad strategy in pushing for change.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. That as part of the updated version of the NCAFC website, there will be a “direct action hub” which will contain: key political arguments on why direct action is effective and necessary, a brief history of direct action in the student movement, links to useful practical resources on direct action, as well as a clear indication that activists are welcome to get in touch with us if they want any help/support/advice relating to direct action (including the offer for NCAFC to facilitate/co-facilitate direct action workshops on campuses).
  2. That we will continue to argue within NUS for a national union which not only coordinates direct action on a national level, but also actively supports grassroots direct action happening on campuses.
  3. That there should always be at least one workshop on direct action at our annual summer training event, incorporating both political and practical knowledge.
  4. That, where politically useful and appropriate, NCAFC will actively seek to collaborate with other grassroots organisations to coordinate direct action around educational issues.

 

Integrating newly-elected NC members into the National Committee

Submitted by Warwick for Free Education

NCAFC notes that:

  1. Often new NC members are expected to pick up their tasks and roles with little guidance, and can feel isolated unless they are already close to experienced NC members.
  2. Often a small number of NC members take on most of the work of maintaining the organisation, and that often some new NC members are never fully integrated into the NC.

NCAFC believes that:

  1. There is an expectation that all NC members should, barring situations where personal circumstances are having an impact on capacity and ability to organise, make an effort to engage in collective discussions, decision making and regular tasks. All NC members should be active in one permanent working group.
  2. Sometimes NC members have to take time off from organising and step back from active involvement.
  3. Sometimes NC members don’t feel supported or knowledgeable enough to fulfil their role adequately.

NCAFC resolves to:

  1. Implement an initial training brief for all new NC members. This will constitute a face-to-face or Skype session introducing the new NC member to decision making processes, communication platforms, working groups, expected tasks for NC members, NCAFC events and so on.
  2. Implement a ‘buddy system’ for new NC members. This will involve assigning each new NC member to a current NC member who will act as a point of contact for the new member for the first 2-3 months in the position. The older NC member will answer questions, check in with the new NC member, encourage them to take up tasks and help them complete them.

Amendment

Submitted by Ben Towse

  1. Delete the following sentence from Believes 1: “All NC members should be active in one permanent working group.”

Appendix

NCAFC Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure

Proposed in motion “A new behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure”

NCAFC is committed to fighting for an education system that is public, democratic, open and accessible to all, and oriented towards free enquiry, the needs and interests of society, and liberation from existing hierarchies and oppressions. We seek to dismantle, rather than perpetuate, existing oppressions and hierarchies within our communities and campaigns. We are a democratic political organisation, so discussion, debate and democratic processes are how we work through our disagreements and collective decisions.

If we are to achieve these aims, we must expect certain standards of behaviour of ourselves and those involved in our organisation, both at our events and in wider society.

We must not:

  1. discriminate against anyone on the basis of ethnicity, sex, gender, religion, age, sexuality, language, disability, asylum status or any other structurally oppressive criteria
  2. perpetrate verbal, physical or sexual abuse, bullying or violence

In addition, we expect ourselves and each other, as members and participants at our events, to:

  1. behave in a comradely and co-operative way towards one another
  2. avoid causing those around us unnecessary offence or anxiety
  3. respect the facilitatory methods of the Chair and only challenge them through the appropriate structures
  4. listen to others when they are speaking, not interrupt and wait for our turn to speak
  5. treat one another with respect, debating political ideas where we disagree without resorting to personal attacks or disrespectful language
  6. respect the aims and democratic processes of NCAFC and behave with honesty and integrity

We all have a responsibility to each other and NCAFC to uphold these standards of behaviour and challenge others around us if they fail to meet these standards. If you feel that anyone’s behaviour is not meeting these standards, in general, the first recourse should be to speak to this person privately and informally about their behaviour, or ask another member or NC member to do so. However, in cases where someone’s behaviour fails to meet these standards in a serious way, especially with regards to points 1. and 2., or repeatedly fails to meet these standards, a formal complaint may be submitted.

Complaints Procedure

  1. To make a formal complaint about a member or attendee at an event, the complainant should write to the National Committee, or if they prefer an NC member (or members) of their choice, who can discuss the complaint with the rest of the NC while preserving the complainant’s anonymity.
  2. Upon receiving the complaint, the NC will decide whether or not to investigate the complaint. All complaints should be treated seriously and assumed to be submitted in good faith unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary. If the complaint is against a NC member, they are not to take part in any discussions or decisions relating to the complaint and the rest of the NC may also decide to suspend them from the NC pending the outcome of the complaint.
  3. If the complaint is deemed serious enough, a group of NC members should be convened to investigate the complaint. Factors such as the diversity of the group and members’ relationships to the accused/complainant (unless submitted anonymously) should be considered to ensure as representative and fair a group as possible.
  4. The group will ask for any statement from the complainant in addition to their complaint. The accused will be informed of the details of the complaint made against them, with the complainant’s wishes regarding anonymity respected, and will also be asked for a statement. The group may also ask questions of the complainant and accused, and any other people as it deems necessary. The group should proceed with sensitivity and unintrusiveness if asking questions of a complainant whose complaint is on the basis of abuse or violence.
  5. While the procedure is ongoing, the NC may take the decision to suspend the member or ban them from attending events, including asking them to leave an event if a complaint is made during an event, pending the outcome of the investigation.
  6. When the group has considered the statements of the complainant and accused and any other information they have gathered, they will decide whether the accused’s behaviour:
    1. is a threat to the functioning of the organisation
    2. runs contrary to the aims of the organisation
    3. discriminates against members of oppressed groups
    4. poses a danger or harm to members of the organisation
  7. If the accused’s behaviour meets any of these criteria, the group will suggest a course of action the NC should take, which could include but is not limited to: giving the perpetrator a warning about their behaviour, banning the perpetrator from events and/or expelling them from the organisation.
  8. The NC will have the final decision as to the course of action to take, according to any conditions or procedures set out in the constitution, with the delegated group’s recommendations considered.
  9. The process up to this point should take no more than either 30 days from the original complaint or 5 days after the soonest NC meeting after the complaint was made, whichever is longer.The NC members are to treat all statements received and answers to questions as confidential and are not to talk about the details of the investigation to anyone outside the NC.
  10. If the complainant and/or accused disagrees with the decision, they can appeal the decision by writing to the NC within 30 days of the outcome. The NC can decide to uphold the decision, review the course of action or reopen the investigation, convening a different delegated group but following the same procedures as listed above. No further appeals can be made after this point.
  11. If the accused is expelled, they may apply for membership again in the future and the NC will make the decision to accept or reject their membership at the time their application is received.
  12. In cases where the complaint is related to verbal, physical or sexual abuse, bullying or violence, NC members will work with the complainant, if the complainant so wishes, to ensure that they have a support group around them and access to relevant services.

Amendment

An amendment has been submitted to this proposed policy: see above.

Return to motion “A new behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure”

Motions for Conference January 2017

Graphic reading "NCAFC Winter Conference 2017 // University of Warwick // 14th-15th January"

UPDATE: The deadline for amendments has now passed. You can see the full document with motions and amendments here.

In the run up to our 2017 Winter conference 14-15 January in Warwick, affiliated groups have submitted the following motions about what NCAFC should be campaigning on and how the National Campaign should be run.

All members of NCAFC can submit amendments to these motions – just email them to [email protected] by 23:30 Wednesday 11 January. For more info on motions, amendments and how our conference democracy works, check out this guide.

If you haven’t registered for conference yet, make sure you do (fill out the registration form) and book your transport today! You can find more info about what to expect via the Facebook event and the guide/agenda.


Political motions:

Organisational motions:

Appendix


Political motions

No to the “good vs. bad migrants” rhetoric!

Submitted by Warwick for Free Education

NCAFC notes:

  1. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has recently announced plans to restrict international students visas.
  2. These plans include linking universities’ ability to accept international students to “teaching quality,” most likely measured byTEF scores.
  3. In recent years, the government has already scrapped the post-study work visa, introduced NHS charges for non-EU students and deported tens of thousands of international students.
  4. Often the response to attacks on international students is to insist that they are not migrants and should be treated differently. This is the approach taken not only by Vice-Chancellors but also by sections of the student movement.
  5. The arguments often rely on how much international students contribute to the British economy by “funding our universities” (justifying sky-high fees) or by emphasising the differences between students and migrant workers instead of challenging prejudice against both.

NCAFC believes:

  1. That freedom of movement is a right and we need to resist any attempts to distinguish between “good” and “bad” migrants.
  2. That the left needs to defend all migrants on principle, not on the basis of how much they contribute to the economy.
  3. That attacks on international students and other migrant groups are based on the same racist and xenophobic ideology, and can only be defeated through active solidarity, not creating further divisions.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To campaign for freedom of movement and the right to a free, accessible education for everyone, regardless of nationality.
  2. To fight against any further attacks on international students, including through direct action if necessary.
  3. To challenge the “students are not migrants” approach within the student movement and more broadly on the left.

Hold the line: defend free movement

Submitted by Workers Liberty

NCAFC notes:

  1. The recent slide into anti-immigration, anti-free- movement politics by even some people on the left of the Labour Party.

NCAFC believes:

  1. We have to continue to defend free movement without shame, compromise or capitulation.
  2. It is a lie that free movement is against the interests of working class people. First, because migrant workers are part of the working class too – our politics of fighting for workers’ rights does not respect the borders imposed by our rulers. Second, because the often-repeated claim that immigration substantially depresses pay and conditions is not actually supported by the evidence.
  3. Restricting immigration will therefore not help either UK-born or migrant working-class people. Instead, this politics serve to divide workers, damaging our ability to organise and fight against the common enemy that is actually responsible for low wages, shortages of housing and jobs, and overstretched public services – the rich and powerful, and the parties and politicians who serve their class interests.
  4. The left needs to politically combat anti-migrant ideas, and advocate real solutions in their place, not concede the debate to right-wing lies.
  5. The result of the EU referendum does not oblige us to stop working to change minds and change policies.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To continue fighting to defend and extend free movement, and to place the blame for the problems facing working class people where it belongs – not on migrants, but the rich and powerful, the ruling class.
  2. To fight uncompromisingly against capitulation by the left on this issue, especially by parts of the Labour left, Labour Students left, and the trade union movement.
  3. To argue and campaign for a programme of immediate real solutions to the problems facing working class people, including: uniting migrant and British-born workers in trade unions to fight for improved pay and conditions for all; reversing the anti-union laws; raising and enforcing the minimum wage; decent housing accessible to all; secure, decently-paid jobs, training and education for everyone; serious taxes on the rich and their businesses in order to redistribute wealth and reverse cuts, fund decent public services and rebuild the NHS.

The campaign to #stoptheHEreforms

Submitted by Workers Liberty

NCAFC notes

  1. The higher education reforms are still progressing through Parliament, with changes so far securing only very minor improvements (e.g. the addition of token student representation at the proposed Office for Students).
  2. We successfully passed proposals through NUS conference 2016 to organise a national demonstration in November, and to boycott the NSS unless and until the reforms are withdrawn, starting now in 2017.

NCAFC believes

  1. Fighting the reforms should remain a priority campaign for NCAFC.
  2. We have secured real improvements in NUS’s approach, compared to previous campaigns. However, it has still been lacking.
  3. We must be honest that the national demonstration was not the success it should have been. There were “managerial” failures by the NUS leadership and student unions, but fundamentally the problem was political:
    1. The leadership made the demo about everything in general, instead of foregrounding the clear and specific demands, which could inspire and explain, that we set out in policy (on the HE reforms as well as grants and FE cuts). We need to continue arguing that actions must be linked to uncompromising and straightforwardly understandable demands and slogans.
    2. The leadership organised the demonstration as a march in London. But for activists, the day of a demo is only the tip of an iceberg. The process of organising a demo should be used to build local groups, educate, argue, organise and persuade in many local areas. Local issues and demands should be linked to the programme of the demo. The march itself should be followed by a vigorous and well-planned campaign of subsequent action.
  4. The NSS boycott has value as an industrial-style tactic: complementing purely protest action by materially disrupting the running of the education system to gain leverage for concessions. To win, we may have to maintain the boycott beyond this year.
  5. As well as contending with right-wingers who have attempted to undermine and disrupt the action, we need to address a number of failings by the NUS leadership:
    1. They have bypassed democratic policy to set a different negotiating position – not to drop the reforms, but just to break the link between TEF scores and fee levels. We need a clear, straightforward political message and negotiating position, not a technocratic and watered-down one.
    2. At times, they have been timid and apologetic about the action.
    3. They have not built the boycott with as much vigour as they could, and don’t seem to have accepted the scale of the operation needed, beyond working with sabbs, to speak directly to students nationally and equip campus activists with resources.
    4. Sabbatical officers have been treated as gatekeepers to their unions’ members, and as if they have the right to determine whether and how NUS may implement decisions already made. Local officers should be called on to support the strategy’s implementation as a basic point of collective union solidarity, and NUS should promote the action to all students, not limit outreach to only the campuses where officers endorse the action.
  6. There is already a right-wing backlash against the actions organised so far. We should not be bounced into uncritically defending the current leadership. We need to defend the value of protest and direct action on the basis of our own understanding of how it can best be carried out, and keep constructively criticising, arguing and contesting in NUS to improve the organisation of the campaign.

NCAFC resolves

  1. To keep the fight to stop the HE reforms as a major priority for the coming period. If they pass into law, the campaign will call for their reversal.
  2. To support this, we call for further protest and direct action, and we will be clear about our political criticisms of the NUS leadership, and our alternative proposals, in order to press for change.
  3. Politically, we maintain the campaign needs to foreground clear, specific slogans and demands, while adding context with a wider political response: a publicly-owned education system, run democratically for social good.

Developing a vision for a National Education Service

Submitted by Workers Liberty

NCAFC notes

  1. Jeremy Corbyn has floated the proposal of a cradle-to- grave, free National Education Service. He has specifically raised: reversing adult education cuts to build lifelong learning by raising corporation tax; universal free childcare; abolishing tuition fees; equalising the minimum wage for apprentices and providing good apprenticeships.

NCAFC believes

  1. These proposals are good but much of what an NES would mean is still unspecified. That means we have a big opportunity to influence its development through political debate and agitation.
  2. NCAFCers have devoted a lot of thought to what our vision of a revolutionised education system might look like. A policy like this, potentially to be taken up by the Labour Party, is a concrete vehicle through which that vision could be thrust into high-profile public debate and hopefully translated into reality.
  3. Transforming the education system cannot be successfully imposed from above –there has to be some grassroots ownership of the programme, and mobilisation from below to support, and hold to account, its implementation.
  4. This weekend includes a lot of discussion of the NES, so this motion should not pre-empt that with a finished policy. However, based on NCAFC’s existing principles and previous discussions, we can say that an NES should:
    1. Be universally accessible free of charge, with financial support through living grants/stipends for all.
    2. Replace the chaos of market competition between institutions with an integrated service that is rationally and democratically organised to serve social good, rather the interests of the capitalist class.
    3. Build on existing ideas about the “Comprehensive University” to break down arbitrary barriers within the curriculum and between streams of education, including between further and higher education, and “vocational” and “academic” study.
    4. Be publicly owned and secular, and democratically governed by its students, workers and the communities it serves.
    5. Through democratic control of the curriculum, allow us to overturn the sometimes overwhelming dominance of ruling ideologies in what is taught, opening space for radical, subversive, liberatory and marginalised ideas and perspectives.
    6. Provide its workers with secure, decently-paid jobs and good conditions.
    7. Include universal free childcare.
    8. Be well resourced, by taxing the rich and their businesses and expropriating the banks.

NCAFC resolves

  1. Based on these points, this conference’s workshops, and previous and ongoing discussions, the NC will lead development of a set of proposals setting out our vision for an NES.
  2. To discuss with organised education workers in particular, as we develop these proposals.
  3. To agitate and campaign for the adoption of these proposals, particularly in the student and trade union movements and by Labour.

The battle in the Labour Party

Submitted by Workers Liberty

NCAFC believes:

  1. NCAFC is, and should remain, independent from political parties and open to activists who are members of different parties and of none.
  2. Nevertheless, we have previously voted to recognise involvement in the Labour Party as one useful course of action left-wing education activists can take, due to the pivotal role that its student wing has played in NUS, its powerful position in UK politics, and its links to the organised workers’ movement. We have voted to offer support to Labour leftists campaigning to re-orient Labour and Labour Students towards free education, encouraged activists to get involved, and supported Jeremy Corbyn’s successful bid to lead the party.
  3. Now the situation in Labour – a battle to win the party for socialism – is an historic opportunity to advance the left, including the causes and ideas for which NCAFC stands.

NCAFC further believes:

  1. There is worthwhile work to be done – in terms of both local activism and advancing left-wing politics – in campus Labour Clubs and local Labour parties. NCAFC should support and encourage this work.
  2. To be successful in the Labour Party, as elsewhere, the left needs genuinely grassroots-democratic organising, through which we can debate and develop our ideas, policies and proposals for the party, and campaign to change minds and shift the wider party. This is similar to the basis on which NCAFC has organised in the student union movement. The establishment of Momentum is welcome. It has the potential to be that organisation, and so the present debates about its form, purpose and politics are crucial.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To remain a united front of education activists from different organisations and none.
  2. To encourage and support the struggle in the Labour Party as one useful avenue, and therefore to offer support and encouragement to student activists getting involved, particularly in campus Labour Clubs.
  3. As some of us get involved in Labour, the Labour left and Momentum, to bring with not only our politics around education specifically, but also NCAFC’s broader ideas and attitudes on the importance of participatory democracy, open debate and political clarity, for developing and advancing left-wing politics.

Organisational motions

Submitting motions (Constitutional amendment)

Submitted by Warwick for Free Education

NCAFC believes:

  1. Currently, only groups affiliated to NCAFC can submit motions to NCAFC Conferences.
  2. The nature of student activism has changed. Whereas in the past NCAFC membership mostly consisted of activists in local anti-cuts groups, there are now fewer active groups, and many NCAFC members come from campuses where there isn’t one.
  3. While we should still encourage building local groups, we need to acknowledge the changes in the student movement and make sure all NCAFC members have the ability to propose policy.
  4. Summer Conference is equally important as Winter Conference, and should have the power to amend the constitution.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To amend the constitution as follows:

Delete 4.A.4.2 and replace with

Motions can be proposed by: local anti-cuts groups and other groups affiliated to NCAFC, the National Committee, or a group of at least seven NCAFC members.

Delete 4.A.7.1 and replace with

To debate motions and constitutional amendments

Abolishing the Secretariat (Constitutional amendment)

Submitted by the National Committee

NCAFC notes:

  1. The Secretariat is currently appointed by the National Committee (NC). It has the task of overseeing democratic procedure at NCAFC events, including conference and in practice, at times, meetings of the National Committee.
  2. A proposal to make the Secretariat elected was rejected at the last winter conference.
  3. It has often been difficult to find appropriate and willing candidates for the post.
  4. At various times during the post’s existence it has been unfilled, or its occupant(s) have been unable to perform the role, and the National Committee has had to perform these roles itself. This has not been a problem. NC members have been assigned to make arrangements for meetings, and have formed working groups to oversee the running of conferences.
  5. Despite the good work of members of the Secretariat over the time the post has existed, this is arguably preferable as NC members, being elected, are more democratically accountable.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. To amend the constitution to abolish the Secretariat, and transfer oversight of its responsibilities to the NC.
    1. Amend 4.A.3.1. – “The NC and the Secretariat has ultimate responsibility for setting the agenda of conferences and other events, and ensuring their smooth and democratic running
    2. Amend 4.A.4.1. – “A motions and proposals deadline must be set by the Secretariat the NC, or its delegated conference working group, ahead of conference”
    3. Amend 4.B. – NCAFC has two one standing committees: the National Committee (NC) and the Secretariat
    4. Delete all of 4.B.3. and 4.B.4.

A New Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure

Submitted by the National Committee

NCAFC notes:

  1. Our Summer Conference 2016 instructed the National Committee to propose a replacement for our existing Safer Spaces Policy.

NCAFC resolves

  1. To adopt the Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure contained in the appendix to this motions document.

NCAFC & direct action

Submitted by Warwick for Free Education

NCAFC notes:

  1. That since the inception of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the belief that grassroots direct action is an integral part of achieving political and social change has been a core principle of the organisation.
  2. That this vocal belief has set NCAFC apart from many other groups and organisations on the student left.
  3. That over the last couple of years, levels of grassroots activity happening on campuses has decreased somewhat.
  4. That, nonetheless, NCAFC continues to be contacted by activists asking for support and advice when it comes to planning and carrying out direct action.

NCAFC believes:

  1. That direct action will never not be relevant, useful and important in the fight for free, democratic and accessible education.
  2. That recent successes such as the occupation at Warwick have shown that commitment to direct action still exists in the movement and that it can be very effective.
  3. That in the fight against this government’s plans to marketise higher education, direct action on both local and national levels is essential, and thus we need activists and SU officers across the country to be equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to plan and carry out direct action.
  4. That as well as practical knowledge, it’s important that activists have access to strong political and historical arguments as to why direct action is powerful and necessary.
  5. That NUS has started to do more work in this area, but that a lot is still lacking.
  6. That it’s important that within the active membership, and especially the National Committee, of NCAFC, we have a significant number of activists with first-hand experience and knowledge when it comes to direct action, who can be called upon to share that expertise with fellow members and/or with activist groups if requested.
  7. That whilst it’s important to recognise the ways in which the student movement is shifting and changing, and to adapt our political strategies accordingly, we must ensure that we do not lose all connection with direct action and that it remains a core aspect of our broad strategy in pushing for change.

NCAFC resolves:

  1. That as part of the updated version of the NCAFC website, there will be a “direct action hub” which will contain: key political arguments on why direct action is effective and necessary, a brief history of direct action in the student movement, links to useful practical resources on direct action, as well as a clear indication that activists are welcome to get in touch with us if they want any help/support/advice relating to direct action (including the offer for NCAFC to facilitate/co-facilitate direct action workshops on campuses).
  2. That we will continue to argue within NUS for a national union which not only coordinates direct action on a national level, but also actively supports grassroots direct action happening on campuses.
  3. That there should always be at least one workshop on direct action at our annual summer training event, incorporating both political and practical knowledge.
  4. That, where politically useful and appropriate, NCAFC will actively seek to collaborate with other grassroots organisations to coordinate direct action around educational issues.

Integrating newly-elected NC members into the National Committee

Submitted by Warwick for Free Education

NCAFC notes that:

  1. Often new NC members are expected to pick up their tasks and roles with little guidance, and can feel isolated unless they are already close to experienced NC members.
  2. Often a small number of NC members take on most of the work of maintaining the organisation, and that often some new NC members are never fully integrated into the NC.

NCAFC believes that:

  1. There is an expectation that all NC members should, barring situations where personal circumstances are having an impact on capacity and ability to organise, make an effort to engage in collective discussions, decision making and regular tasks. All NC members should be active in one permanent working group.
  2. Sometimes NC members have to take time off from organising and step back from active involvement.
  3. Sometimes NC members don’t feel supported or knowledgeable enough to fulfil their role adequately.

NCAFC resolves to:

  1. Implement an initial training brief for all new NC members. This will constitute a face-to-face or Skype session introducing the new NC member to decision making processes, communication platforms, working groups, expected tasks for NC members, NCAFC events and so on.
  2. Implement a ‘buddy system’ for new NC members. This will involve assigning each new NC member to a current NC member who will act as a point of contact for the new member for the first 2-3 months in the position. The older NC member will answer questions, check in with the new NC member, encourage them to take up tasks and help them complete them.

Appendix

NCAFC Behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure

Proposed in motion “A new behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure”

NCAFC is committed to fighting for an education system that is public, democratic, open and accessible to all, and oriented towards free enquiry, the needs and interests of society, and liberation from existing hierarchies and oppressions. We seek to dismantle, rather than perpetuate, existing oppressions and hierarchies within our communities and campaigns. We are a democratic political organisation, so discussion, debate and democratic processes are how we work through our disagreements and collective decisions.

If we are to achieve these aims, we must expect certain standards of behaviour of ourselves and those involved in our organisation, both at our events and in wider society.

We must not:

  1. discriminate against anyone on the basis of ethnicity, sex, gender, religion, age, sexuality, language, disability, asylum status or any other structurally oppressive criteria
  2. perpetrate verbal, physical or sexual abuse, bullying or violence

In addition, we expect ourselves and each other, as members and participants at our events, to:

  1. behave in a comradely and co-operative way towards one another
  2. avoid causing those around us unnecessary offence or anxiety
  3. respect the facilitatory methods of the Chair and only challenge them through the appropriate structures
  4. listen to others when they are speaking, not interrupt and wait for our turn to speak
  5. treat one another with respect, debating political ideas where we disagree without resorting to personal attacks or disrespectful language
  6. respect the aims and democratic processes of NCAFC and behave with honesty and integrity

We all have a responsibility to each other and NCAFC to uphold these standards of behaviour and challenge others around us if they fail to meet these standards. If you feel that anyone’s behaviour is not meeting these standards, in general, the first recourse should be to speak to this person privately and informally about their behaviour, or ask another member or NC member to do so. However, in cases where someone’s behaviour fails to meet these standards in a serious way, especially with regards to points 1. and 2., or repeatedly fails to meet these standards, a formal complaint may be submitted.

Complaints Procedure

  1. To make a formal complaint about a member or attendee at an event, the complainant should write to the National Committee, or if they prefer an NC member (or members) of their choice, who can discuss the complaint with the rest of the NC while preserving the complainant’s anonymity.
  2. Upon receiving the complaint, the NC will decide whether or not to investigate the complaint. All complaints should be treated seriously and assumed to be submitted in good faith unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary. If the complaint is against a NC member, they are not to take part in any discussions or decisions relating to the complaint and the rest of the NC may also decide to suspend them from the NC pending the outcome of the complaint.
  3. If the complaint is deemed serious enough, a group of NC members should be convened to investigate the complaint. Factors such as the diversity of the group and members’ relationships to the accused/complainant (unless submitted anonymously) should be considered to ensure as representative and fair a group as possible.
  4. The group will ask for any statement from the complainant in addition to their complaint. The accused will be informed of the details of the complaint made against them, with the complainant’s wishes regarding anonymity respected, and will also be asked for a statement. The group may also ask questions of the complainant and accused, and any other people as it deems necessary. The group should proceed with sensitivity and unintrusiveness if asking questions of a complainant whose complaint is on the basis of abuse or violence.
  5. While the procedure is ongoing, the NC may take the decision to suspend the member or ban them from attending events, including asking them to leave an event if a complaint is made during an event, pending the outcome of the investigation.
  6. When the group has considered the statements of the complainant and accused and any other information they have gathered, they will decide whether the accused’s behaviour:
    1. is a threat to the functioning of the organisation
    2. runs contrary to the aims of the organisation
    3. discriminates against members of oppressed groups
    4. poses a danger or harm to members of the organisation
  7. If the accused’s behaviour meets any of these criteria, the group will suggest a course of action the NC should take, which could include but is not limited to: giving the perpetrator a warning about their behaviour, banning the perpetrator from events and/or expelling them from the organisation.
  8. The NC will have the final decision as to the course of action to take, according to any conditions or procedures set out in the constitution, with the delegated group’s recommendations considered.
  9. The process up to this point should take no more than either 30 days from the original complaint or 5 days after the soonest NC meeting after the complaint was made, whichever is longer.The NC members are to treat all statements received and answers to questions as confidential and are not to talk about the details of the investigation to anyone outside the NC.
  10. If the complainant and/or accused disagrees with the decision, they can appeal the decision by writing to the NC within 30 days of the outcome. The NC can decide to uphold the decision, review the course of action or reopen the investigation, convening a different delegated group but following the same procedures as listed above. No further appeals can be made after this point.
  11. If the accused is expelled, they may apply for membership again in the future and the NC will make the decision to accept or reject their membership at the time their application is received.
  12. In cases where the complaint is related to verbal, physical or sexual abuse, bullying or violence, NC members will work with the complainant, if the complainant so wishes, to ensure that they have a support group around them and access to relevant services.

Return to motion “A new behaviour Policy and Complaints Procedure”

Announcing…NCAFC Winter Conference 2015!

11921816_965268716866375_6593609279777932551_o4-6 December 2015
Sheffield

Register for free
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Become a member of NCAFC
How our conference democracy works

Six months into the new Tory government and the attacks on students and education just keep coming, with the abolition of maintenance grants, hikes in loan repayments, and a whole array of nasty methods of pushing forward the marketisation of our education system.

The student fightback has already begun, with NCAFC organising the National Demo for Free Education in November and making plans for a national student strike in the next few months.

NCAFC National Conference is a chance to come together and plan where the student movement goes next. The weekend will include political discussion and debate, chances to learn about the student movement past and present, and make plans for the future.

With a mix of speaker sessions, workshops, liberation caucuses, and democratic sessions, the conference is your chance to meet student activists from across the country and have your say on what NCAFC does next.

This conference will include the election of the National Committee (NC) as well as hearing and voting on motions submitted by the membership. The deadline for motion submission is 23:59, Friday 20 November. (For more information on how motions work, see How our conference democracy works)

We will be providing accommodation. Please register online, and get in touch if you have any questions via [email protected].

How NCAFC democracy works: how to make proposals and run for election!

3650546408_25f717dee4-300x199The NCAFC is different from many other organisations on the left because it is democratic. It belongs to our members – every person who becomes part of our campaign has a say in how it is run. Our Summer Conference (June 12-14 in Sheffield) is an opportunity for all of us to discuss, debate and decide where we should take our movement next. So this guide exists to explain how the NCAFC works and how you can contribute to decision-making by submitting proposals and running for election.

Deadlines at a glance

    • Motions (submissions open now): 23:59 Wednesday 3 June
    • Amendments: 23:59 Wednesday 10 June
    • Nominations for National Committee places (at the conference in person, or via email if not attending):  Saturday 13 June.

How does the NCAFC work?

The NCAFC is made up of its members. Those members carry out the campaigns of the organisation, and decide its directions, policies and activities through discussions and through formal democratic processes. Wherever possible, members should try to build activist groups on their campuses – these groups can choose to affiliate to the NCAFC, and they too are an important part of our activities and our democracy.

This is a summary of how the NCAFC ordinarily functions. For full details, please read the NCAFC’s constitution.

National Conferences

National conferences happen at least twice per year, and they are the sovereign body in charge of the NCAFC. Every individual member attending holds one vote.

These conferences decide NCAFC’s direction and its stances on different issues, by debating and voting on motions that propose different policies. Motions are submitted by affiliated local groups, or by formally organised political groups within NCAFC. The winter conference (but not the summer conference) can also consider proposals to alter the constitution, in order to change how the NCAFC works.

Liberation caucuses

We also have 4 liberation caucuses (Women, LGBTQ, Disabled and Black), which organise autonomously from the main body of the campaign and are open only to members who fall into those 4 categories (by self-definition – that means, it is up to a member to define for themselves what is their gender, sexuality and so on). The caucuses hold specific meetings for their members during our conferences and gatherings.

National Committee

The conference also elects a National Committee (NC), which coordinates the NCAFC’s work and is accountable to the members and to the decisions we make at conferences. It meets regularly between conferences and those meetings are open to all NCAFC members. The NC includes one voting representative elected by each liberation campaign, each organised region or nation (e.g. NCAFC Midlands) and each recognised section (e.g. NCAFC International Students). And there are also 14 open places on the NC, of which at least 40% are reserved for women and non-binary people. These open places can be held either by an individual, or by an affiliated local group, which can stand collectively for a seat and elect its own replaceable delegate to fill that seat (each local group can stand for up to two such seats; one open delegate seat and one women-only delegate seat).

The main elections for the liberation campaigns, the sections and the open places occur at the winter conference. At the upcoming summer conference, there will be by-elections to fill any vacant posts – these will be announced soon.

How can I submit a motion or a proposal to the conference?

Motions are proposals that say NCAFC should take a particular stance, and/or particular actions, about an issue. If passed by the Conference, they become the policy of NCAFC and are put into action! (Motions that would change the constitution of the NCAFC can only be submitted to the winter conference.)

In order to submit a motion, it must come from a local activist group, or organised political group, that is affiliated to the NCAFC. So if you have a motion idea, propose it within your group! If it is approved (by whatever democratic process your group uses to make decisions) it can be submitted as a motion to NCAFC conference. If you need help or advice to draft a motion, feel free to speak to any member of the National Committee.

When motions are released before Conference, make sure to read them, because you have the right to submit amendments to them. So if you think a motion takes the wrong stance on the issue it discusses, or should propose different actions, propose an amendment. This can delete bits of the motion, add bits, or change existing bits. You don’t need to go through your group to make an amendment – you can do it as an individual NCAFC member.

Motions and amendments should be sent to [email protected] in a text format (either in the text of the email, or a .doc, .docx, or .odt file). Please make clear what individual or group is the proposer.

  • Motions should be submitted by 23:59 Wednesday 3 June
  • Amendments: 23:59 Wednesday 10 June

How can I run for election?

Vacant National Committee posts that will be open for re-election at the Summer Conference will be announced soon. You don’t need to decide before the conference that you want to run for election to the National Committee.

Open places: NCAFC members will be able to nominate themselves for any vacant open places during the Conference. However, if your affiliated local activist group wants to run for one of the open places as a delegate seat (see above), it’s best to discuss this with your group before the Conference and get collective agreement. Nominations should be submitted at the conference on Saturday 13 June. If you cannot attend the conference but wish to run, please email [email protected] before then with a short statement that can be read out loud in under 2 minutes.

Sections and caucuses: Liberation caucuses and other sections of NCAFC decide their own methods for electing reps to the National Committee. However, for those caucuses meeting during the Conference, as an NCAFC member it will be enough to attend the caucus and volunteer on the spot.

NCAFC members to elect candidates for NUS leadership: nominations open now

Logo of the National Union of StudentsAs part of our National Conference 12-14 December, where we will debate and decide on plans for where to take our movement next, the NCAFC’s members will also select our endorsed candidates for the Presidency and Vice-Presidencies of the National Union of Students.

Nominations are open now and will close at 23:59 Monday 1 December [extended to 23:59 Saturday 6 December]. Please read the details below about submitting nominations.

Mass mobilisation and democratic organising for protest, direct action and industrial action are the NCAFC’s focus. As activists we work both within student union structures – transforming them where we can – and independently of them as much as we need to. We aim to build a movement in our campuses, workplaces and communities, not just to win control of formal organisations. It is tempting to imagine, as some on the left do, that electoral victories at the top could offer a short-cut past the hard work of developing a healthy, democratic movement and union from the bottom up – this is a mistake.

Nevertheless, participating in these elections is worthwhile because they are a platform – one of many opportunities to argue for our ideas, challenge the direction of the bureaucratised NUS, and present the alternatives of a principled, militant student movement and a fighting, democratic union. And though elected officers are no substitute for a movement, they can help to build that alternative if they remain connected to the movement that put them there.

Therefore our candidates must be selected by, and democratically accountable to, our movement. So we invite potential candidates to put their proposed political platforms forward, and we invite members to.

  • The conference will discuss NCAFC’s candidates for the following full-time NUS positions: President, Vice President (Further Education), Vice President (Higher Education), Vice President (Welfare), Vice President (Union Development) and Vice President (Society & Citizenship). Candidates must be available to run at the NUS National Conference on 21-23 April 2015. Other NUS elections will be discussed separately.
  • Nominations must be received at [email protected]mail.com by 23:59 Monday 1 December [extended to 23:59 Saturday 6 December]
  • Candidates can include members and non-members of the NCAFC.
  • Nominations should include a political statement of no more than 800 words. This should be text only, with no graphics. Statements will be reproduced publicly and on the NCAFC members’ forum for discussion, and we hope that as many members as possible will join debate on that forum in the run-up to the conference.
  • If possible, candidates should attend NCAFC Conference 12-14 December, where there will be hustings on the Sunday.
  • We would be grateful if candidates could indicate whether they fall within any liberation strands (by self-definition – Women, LGBT students, Disabled students, Black students) so that representation in our slate can be considered. However, this is optional.
  • The NCAFC will campaign for its selected candidates. Our members who are NUS delegates will be encouraged to vote accordingly, but are not required to do so.

See also: how to submit proposals and run for election to the NCAFC’s National Committee