NUS LGBT+ 2017: When virtue signalling trumps fighting for liberation

NCAFC activist and UCL student Ben Towse writes about last month’s NUS LGBT+ Conference. This is an opinion piece – what do you think? If you want to write a response or another article on this or another topic, get in touch via [email protected].

NUS-LGBT-logoNUS LGBT+ conference this year was a surreal experience, and one that left me and others with severe concerns about the ability or willingness of activists in our union to fight for liberation. What I saw was a tendency of student unionists more concerned with signalling their virtuous principles than putting them into action, who confuse representing people and their needs with actually fighting for their material fulfilment, and who in general are fostering a deeply inward-looking inclination in the campaign at the expense of taking action to defend and extend the rights, needs and material interests of LGBT+ students.

Perhaps the most illustrative and absurd episode of the two days was the conference’s rejection of a proposal to campaign for accessible and ultimately free childcare, and the arguments used to call for this.

Rejecting the childcare campaign policy

Motion 404, from activists at Durham Uni, called for representation of student carers – rightly highlighting that this includes both those caring for children and adult dependents – and for research and campaign activity to tackle problems facing them. NCAFC activists sent in what we considered a friendly amendment, removing nothing from the original motion, only adding on top a specific commitment to campaign for colleges and universities to cover their students’ childcare needs, and ultimately for free universal childcare to be provided as a public service (as proposed by the Labour leadership), funded by progressively taxing the rich and business.

We were relatively confident of passing the motion, and expected that if opposition arose it would come from a minority right-wing perspective (“You can’t just point at things and tax them!”, “This is a lefty pipe-dream, be realistic!”, “If people can’t afford childcare they shouldn’t have children!” etc etc). The proposing speech was handed to NCAFCer Mark Crawford, who is doing solid work around the issue on our campus as UCL Union’s Postgrad Officer.

What followed floored even the most jaded cynics within the huddle of NCAFC activists present. Delegates took to the stage to harshly denounce our proposal – not, they said, because they disagreed with it, but because adding to a motion about all carers with an issue specific only to some carers, would “dilute” the main motion and detract from the representation of carers of adults. We were accused of “conflating” parents with all carers, and told that it was offensive for us to have submitted this as an amendment, rather than a separate motion [1]. The amendment was rejected by a landslide vote, despite not one speaker raising objections to its actual content.

This betrays a couple of deep political problems:

  • First, a desperately limited, inward-looking understanding of what our union can do for its members. To some of these people, the “big win” for student carers would be attaining official recognition and representation by the national organisation, and the fact that this recognition equally noted carers of children and of adults. To defend the needs of carers of adults was not, at least in this debate, about campaigning in the outside world to secure their real material needs (for instance, financial and other support, or combatting the chronic underfunding of adult social care), but about ensuring a nice, right-on document could be posted in the conference minutes on NUS Connect.The substitution of improving representation for improving material reality is a persistent problem in student politics and much of the left. There is a stark juxtaposition in this political culture, between the harsh (often – let’s face it – performatively vitriolic) denunciations of liberalism’s tokenistic responses to oppression and disadvantage, and frequency with which this tokenism is reproduced, albeit with a superficially radical veneer. Other examples in recent NUS LGBT+ conferences include the prevalence of election speeches that prioritise listing aspects of the candidate’s identity over concrete policy, strategy and tactics; or the disproportionate amount of time spent discussing the acronym under which we organise. This is not to ignore the value of representation in democratic organisations, but to emphasise that it is valuable only insofar as it results in the represented groups’ needs and interests not just being performatively noted, but effectively tackled.
  • Second, a hackish obsession with some very particular abstract standards around motions (I say this as something of a union procedural nerd myself) and a failure to understand that the purpose of a democratic union conference needs to be not producing a policy document, but collectively discussing and deciding what we as a union should do to change the world beyond the walls of the Sheffield Holiday Inn conference centre. It is absurd to imagine that anyone struggling to care for their dependents in the outside world, gives a flying fuck what part of a motion document contains their union’s commitment to fight for them and with them.We saw this tendency crop up at other points in the conference. For instance, it was apparent when delegates voted to remove a reference to the fact that LGBT+ people are more likely to be atheists than non-LGBT+ people, because the document did not include a citation, even though they did not dispute the fact and specific research was cited in proposers’ speeches and can be found easily via Google: e.g. here, here, here (although, given this was followed by a – thankfully unsuccessful – attempt to cut recognition that leaving a religion and religious community can be difficult and distressing, it probably also had something to do with certain student lefties’ reluctance to acknowledge any negatives whatsoever about religion). And it was apparent when some delegates got up to give lecturing speeches about how others’ motions hadn’t been drafted precisely in the format they’d have liked.

    This attitude is obviously completely unconstructive, both because it tends against focussing on effective action to make concrete change in the real world, and because it is exclusionary and alienating to anyone who wants to bring a meaningful proposal for action to their union, but isn’t experienced in writing motions (or, indeed, isn’t familiar with the precise preferences and obsessions of some particular hacks at one conference).

You need a movement to make policies a reality

This was the third (and last) annual conference of the campaign I’ve attended, and in all that time, even when good policy has been passed, serious discussion about what kind of movement we’d need to win radical change, and how to build it, has been largely absent. For instance, a student union movement capable of fighting for LGBT+ liberation would need large, vibrant, militant LGBT+ groups on every campus, vigorously debating the issues facing us in order to develop – and then act on – plans for political advocacy, protest, direct action and so on. Clearly, we’re lightyears away from this on most campuses. But you wouldn’t know it from conference discussions – talk of the actual power of our movement to extract concessions and force change, and how to build that power, is basically not on the radar.

Of course, another big problem is the widespread hostility to the idea that any of us should ever engage in discussion with people who hold bigoted or reactionary views, limiting the campaign’s ability to win hearts and minds as well. This conference again aggressively rejected our motion critical of the way no-platform tactics have been used. I won’t go into detail but check out this article for an explanation of NCAFC’s take on the issue.

What is to be done?

US Catholic school students protest church homophobia & the sacking of their gay teacher

US Catholic school students protest against church homophobia & the sacking of their gay teacher

A union that passes policies for righteous causes but devotes little attention to how we can either convince others of those causes, or build the forces needed to win them, is a union that’s going nowhere. And a union that refuses to even pass good policies because of obsessions around virtue signalling through the particular arrangement of motion documents, is one that’s going backwards. So what can we do?

First, keep arguing within NUS LGBT+ for a materialist perspective – one focussed on the world outside the conference room walls, and on serious, rational consideration of what will and won’t change it. NUS LGBT+ Conference is treated as the centrepiece of the organisation, when it should be merely the beginning – where we decide the activity that we will actually go out and do, together, in the real world.

Second, lead by example. NCAFC LGBT+ caucus has discussed how we can transform campus LGBT+ groups into activist organisations that turn outwards and fight to force change and change hearts and minds. Other organisations and networks are also doing great work in LGBT+ activism – from migrant solidarity to fighting for trans healthcare – but, barring some honourable exceptions, campus LGBT+ groups are not substantially involved, let alone leading. We need to get these groups organising local protests over the NHS, occupying local government offices against cuts to community sexual and mental health services, building tenants’ rights and social housing activism, and fighting to stop the detentions and deportations of LGBT+ and other asylum seekers and migrants (for instance, taking inspiration from the Lesbians & Gays Support the Migrants activists who grounded a deportation flight recently).

Realistically, we won’t change NUS LGBT+ from above, but from below. We will transform campus groups into grassroots campaigns, conducting meaningful fights that defend and extend our material interests and needs – creating the concrete examples that illustrate our arguments to change the politics of the national union.

[1] Ironically, we had also been speaking with an NCAFC activist who cares for an adult about putting together a second amendment about material assistance for students caring for adults, but this effort missed the submission deadline – due, of course, to that activist’s time commitments. [go back and continue article]

Register: NCAFC Women & Non-Binary Conference 2016

NCAFC Women and Non-Binary Caucus will be hosting our first conference on the 30/31st January!

Join at us at Warwick University in Coventry for a weekend of discussion, debate, skill-sharing, workshops and direct action planning.

We’ll be discussing issues such as…

How is the fight for free education gendered?
What does it mean to be left-wing and feminist?
Why should fighting the Green Paper be a priority for Liberation?
Why is the struggle of migrant women so central to women’s struggle as a whole?

This conference is open only to self-defining women (trans, intersex and cis), non-binary folk and those with marginalised or no gender identities who experience gender oppression.

Fill out the form below to register now!

The event is funded by your donations and if you cannot get your SU to fund your travel and are unable to do so yourself but still wish to attend then please get in touch ([email protected]) and we can talk about subsidies.

If you require childcare for any part of the weekend then please get in touch and we can arrange this.

There are prayer facilities on campus.

Full agenda coming soon

If the registration form is not displaying properly below, please click here.

Solidarity with the anti-fascist network, solidarity with migrants!


On September the 12th fascists – from up to 12 different groups – will once again impose themselves on the town of Dover. In January of this year they did the same, and the small turn out of extreme-far right and nationalists was disrupted and confronted at every opportunity by a robust counter-mobilisation by the Anti-Fascist network. The political climate, however, is, this time, distinctly different – with a crisis of unprecedented proportions unravelling across Europe and beyond as hundreds of thousands of migrants flee war, persecution, poverty and conflict, primarily from the Middle East and Africa, in search of refuge. The heavily fractured far right are exploiting this as an opportunity to unite and consolidate themselves and call for closed borders. Even more insidiously we see some of their rhetoric reflected in Government responses to the crisis, with David Cameron adamant that we can afford sanctuary to no more refugees, and only relenting under intense pressure from grassroots activists, resistance from migrants, the UN and the escalating emergency of the situation to nebulously pledge that the UK will take in 20,000 refugees ‘by 2020’.

NCAFC would like to take a moment here to comment on the capricious media and political narratives around the crisis. We have witnessed a noticeable shift: most starkly this is emphasised in The Sun calling for us to act to alleviate the plight of refugees whilst just a few months ago it provided a platform to an article by Katie Hopkins branding migrants ‘cockroaches’. It was only with the widely disseminated picture of a drowned Syrian boy, testament to the often gruesome sensationalization of suffering inherent in the media, that the Government felt any obligation to act. It was only when Germany began to provide refuge to more migrants that the UK and other European Governments were compelled to respond, as if compassion is a functionality to emphasise the charitable credentials of ‘civilised’ Western states, as if the lives of migrants can be relegated to statistics around which imperialist states compete for supremacy. All the while those in Calais are suffering in destitution in makeshift campus, bludgeoned by police batons, forsaken by the British and French states. All the while migrants are systematically perishing in the Mediterranean Sea – and, in response, the rescue initiatives were cut by the Government as such projects might ‘encourage more migrants to come to Britain’. All the while migrants are imprisoned and subject to dehumanisation and sexual abuse in detention centres, violently deported and brutalized by abhorrent raids. All the while migrants are homogenized into the category of ‘refugees’, constructed as helpless victims of chance, rather than subjects of military intervention and imperialism, the violence of borders, oppressive foreign and domestic Government policy, social strife incubated by war and poverty, and intentionally constructed, racialized systems of subjugation which benefit economic and political elites.

Because this is not simply a humanitarian crisis: it is a distinctly political one. By the Government and media reframing it as the former, not only can they adjust public consciousness such that it is only motivated by such lurid depictions of suffering, they can also conceal their complicity in the so called ‘migrant crisis’ by voiding it of its political context. By remoulding narratives around the refugee/migrant dichotomy, they are assimilating into a logic which ranks life, which establishes hierarchies of worthiness demanding protection only for those who truly need it. In doing so they elude broader political questions of the causal link between relative prosperity in the West, especially for the very richest, and the deprivation of the Global South, and how that siphoning of wealth may inevitably draw migrants from poverty in the Middle East and Africa towards the UK. They can dismiss socio-economic questions about how this poverty is a form of structural violence, just as the West’s continual waging of war on the Global South, capitalist globalization, and the reverberating histories of colonialism are. They can essentially remould their actions not as a political duty in mitigating suffering they have significantly contributed to, but as an isolated gesture of generosity and charity which demonstrates their ‘progressiveness’ and ‘compassion’ as implicit ‘British values’. They can reframe themselves as bastions of ‘civilisation’ providing aid and protection to those bound in some arbitrary plight whilst raising no challenges or questions around their own structural violence and borders in fomenting and reproducing that plight. A once xenophobic media can convert from a rhetoric of ‘swarms’ of migrants leaching from our social security, to desperate refugees with no other options and in need of saving, as ‘unfortunates’ to showcase in their destitution and hardship. A Government which once called for ‘more fences and dogs’ to resolve the crisis, the imposition of more violence upon those fleeing violence, all for the preservation of artificial national divisions and the exclusivisation of its wealth, resources and communal and cultural ‘purity’, has now pledged to a pretence of kindness. But make no mistake: it did not heed appeals to conscience, not as it perpetrates state violence on people of colour and migrants every day, but only the prospect of its Europe-wide reputation and toxic ‘British values’ being sullied.

We must recognise the political intent of this crisis. We must recognise that it is not inevitable. It could have been prevented. We must, then, raise a political challenge to it, a combating of the logic which underpins this crisis, and NCAFC believes that part of this resides in the 12th of September. Not only do fascists pose a grave physical threat to migrants and refugees which must be resisted, this new surge of public awareness and a demand for the end of the crisis will have kindled the anger of the far right. They will seek to latch on to this political climate and band together in order to reinforce reactionary narratives, gain traction for their cause and amass as many numbers as possible to confront the call for 20,000 refugees to be afforded sanctuary in the UK. They must be stopped, as they seek to bolster their ranks through the suffering of the most dispossessed.

In our National Demo for Free Education on November the 4th we have called for ‘no borders’, and on the 17th of October we are coordinating an ‘Open Dover, Open Europe’ demo, demanding that the borders be opened and fortress Europe be dismantled. We believe that not only is community self-defence against fascists necessary, preventing them from gaining control over the streets, threatening the safety of the most marginalized and seeking to normalize their poisonous views, we must also create a broad-ranging, grassroots anti-racist movement capable of deconstructing broader racialized and structural violence. We express our solidarity with those sending material support to Calais in the form of convoys, in which students have participated. We express our solidarity with Movement for Justice, the women of Yarlswood, and all those protesting for the end to detention centres, deportations and borders. We express our solidarity with the migrants in Calais, who have exhibited incredible fortitude in protesting and resisting despite the adversity of their conditions.

We believe that all these struggles, together, contain within them the power to fundamentally transform a social order premised upon brutality and violence, and in generating an uncompromisingly political counter-narrative which demands more than isolated and superficial acts of Governmental aid, but an end to borders and capitalism and state violence. We believe that no human is illegal. We believe that all deserve dignity and protection. We believe that all deserve not simply free education, but freedom of movement, and freedom from violence, and the freedom to flourish. We believe all deserve safety and sustenance and unconditional compassion.

We believe that all deserve freedom, and that we must fight for it.

***September 12th***

***Open Dover, Open Europe – October 17th***!/events/417016075167947/?fref=ts

NCAFC Conference Report

Report of NCAFC conference

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts national conference took place in Birmingham on December 8th and 9th.  150 activists came together from all over the country to co-ordinate local struggles and plan the future of NCAFC.

The general tone of the conference was constructive and determined: one of developing ideas, strategies and structures to allow the student movement to fight and win when it next surges. There was a huge array of discussion and debate – in informal and formal sessions, as well as self-organised spaces for Liberation groups, and a lot of socialising and fun. (If you have photos of the conference, please email them to [email protected])

In this report:

1.Structural Outcomes of the conference

2.What conference voted for

3. Workshops roundup

4. Liberation, Section and Regional caucuses roundup

5. Election Results

6.  Motions passed in full


1.Structural Outcomes of the conference

The conference was a major step forward for the campaign, and for the first time established a clear set of core principles and a constitution for NCAFC.  This means:

  • NCAFC has a charter of core principles
  • NCAFC is now a membership organisation with:  watch this space for info on how to become a member
  • When the student movement next has an upsurge, we can dissolve our existing structures into a directly democratic delegate model
  • Local anti-cuts and other societies can now affiliate to NCAFC
  • NCAFC is in the process of setting up a new Federation of students or student unions, to which unions or students can affiliate. This will be decided at a conference, which will occur within 6 months

2. What conference voted for

The full text of what was passed is below. In short, NCAFC decided to:

  • Work on creating broad, non-sectarian anticuts groups on every campus
  • Push forward with a central political campaign for free education funded by taxation of the rich, while also focussing on neglected issues which affect many students, including housing and the NHS
  • Make the call for the abolition of all debt a serious political priority
  • Build a network of school and FE students, on the basis of campaigning for living grants; building fighting college students’ unions; opposing privatisation & marketisation; opposing market-driven mergers and cuts in courses and lecturers; and resisting all fees in education
  • Run a campaign on students’ rights as workers
  • Link up with Medsin, BMA Students, Keep Our NHS Public and the NHS Unity Network to fight what the government is doing to healthcare
  • Campaign within the Labour Movement for a coalition of ‘Trade Unions for free education.’
  • Organise towards a united left intervention within NUS
  • Make links with student activists in Sri Lanka against violent attacks on them


3.Workshops roundup

The conference provided a lot of opportunities for useful informal discussion of a wide range of topics. These included:

The fight for Further Education

International students – for dignity, against deportations!,

What’s happening to our Unis? An overview of attacks on HE

Change the world – Organise at work!

The lessons of the Quebec students’ struggle

Defending abortion rights

Student union democracy – smashing “their” structures and building our own

Saving the NHS


4. Liberation, Section and Regional caucuses roundup

Disabled Caucus

Disabled students caucus ran a lot more smoothly than it ever has before. Usually our time is entirely consumed discussing access needs at the actual event but those were so well organised for, that following elections, (in which Matthew Reuben and Edmund Schlussel were elected uncontested) we began a discussion on bullying. We talked about the way it can destroy movements and officers, how to counteract it, and how to support each other. We also discussed how there is a culture of silence around disability and, especially, ‘invisible’ disability on the left, and how to tackle it. Looking to the future we want to get involved in the cross-liberation conference we hope to plan for early Spring, and we want to prepare, probably two, workshops for the next training event. We also intend to build links with groups such as DPAC with the goal of calling a national day of action against ATOS in the new year.

LGBTQ Caucus

There were about 30 delegates present but we believe work must be done to engage more LGBTQ activists, especially Black* and Trans* students. We discussed issues that affect LGBTQ students, for instance cuts in public sector services for LGBTQ people, access to health services and education due to money issues and coming out, and lack of visibility for LGBTQ students.

After elections, we talked about the idea of “community”, and how the many local LGBT societies have become depoliticised and prone to doing only inaccessible/stereotypical social events. We want to engage societies and clubs around universities and colleges in a radical political community, and in NCAFC. The caucus agreed that there was a job to do in terms of intervening in the NUS LGBT Campaign, which has radical potential.

It was also agreed to call and hold a Liberation Conference where all self identify Disabled, Black, Women, and LGBTQ people can attend to discuss issues and unify efforts to campaign for all of the groups and improve Intersectionality work. We will aim to combine this with Liberation Training sessions.

Black Power Caucus

Around 14 people attended the Black Power Caucus. This isn’t great but is an improvement on previous years. Much of the caucus’s time was taken up with a debate around elections and candidates within the caucus, but it was ultimately productive. After elections, the caucus discussed using different forms of communications – including social media – to organise, and setting up an e-list. The caucus also agreed to organise an event in the near future.

Women’s Caucus

The women’s caucus elected a new women’s committee of 9 people which aims to support the activity of women in the NCAFC locally and organise for national activity; facilitate communication and skills sharing between women activists; and promote broader involvement in NCAFC Women and the NCAFC.

We reflected on the experience of conference so far (meeting on the Saturday evening). We agreed that, despite the fact it was statistically male-dominated, it was the most positive and accessible conference we had experienced. To build upon this and improve future events we agreed to explore ensuring gender neutral toilets, childcare provision and working together to propose motions and support each other to prepare speeches and participate more actively in motions debates. We also agreed to approach the other liberation caucuses to consider how we could improve diversity within the women’s caucus.

Reviewing the Charter for Women in Education (passed at last NCAFC conference) we discussed a few areas on which we would like to focus activity in the coming period. In particular, defending and extending abortion rights; fighting against attacks on the NHS; and defending or fighting to reinstate childcare support services on campuses, stood out. We also discussed how we might relate to support networks for women who experienced violence or abuse, and considered researching the experiences of women in education around this issue.

Scotland Caucus

The group discussed how best to organise the Scottish section of NCAFC. A consensus was reached to establish a relationship similar to that of NUS UK and NUS Scotland. A working group was established to organise a conference in February to constitute NCAFC Scotland as a federation of affiliated unions, groups and individuals. It was agreed the conference would meet in Aberdeen, and the group would approach as many sympathetic groups as possible.

The working group consists of NC members from Scottish institutions, namely Megan Dunn, Mike Shaw, James McAsh, Gordon Maloney, Lucy Eskell, Hona Luisa Cohen-Fuentes and Nathan Bower-Bir. Elections were held for the NCAFC Scotland representatives on national committee, with Megan Dunn (University of Aberdeen) and Mike Shaw (University of Edinburgh) elected.


The group also briefly discussed recent changes in education policy in Scotland and the need to organise around housing issues.

Welsh Caucus

The Welsh caucus was bigger than in previous years.  Elections were held for the Campaign Against Fees & Cuts Cymru Committee and is now Edmund (Cardiff), Andrew (Aberystwyth), and Jamie O’Brien (Aberystwyth).

A new announcement on HE policy in Wales is due after Christmas, and we’ll be looking at how we can develop anti-cuts groups in Wales and to engage these groups in CAFCC/NCAFC.

International Caucus

The International Caucus had a well-attended and productive meeting, during which we discussed a breadth of issues confronting non-home, and in particular non-EU/EEA, students here in the UK. Some of the most pressing issues we addressed include the following: Obtaining student visas; strict monitoring of students, including attendance monitoring and the government’s “Prevent” agenda; high, volatile fees; new regulations for remaining in the UK post-study; and the UK Border Agency’s revocation of sponsor status from colleges and universities (e.g. London Met), leading to students’ loss of their visas (taking note also of the particular challenges faced by students of private colleges). We discussed the problems that follow from these—including added stress, feelings of alienation, and the threat of deportation—, noting further that many of our challenges are linked to the other Liberation Caucuses and that we would benefit from greater collaboration. 

As we enhance our understanding of these issues and their effects, we seek to engage more international students on our own and other campuses to build a broader movement. A conference to be held in Bradford in or around late February will provide us the opportunity to coordinate with other campaigns and groups to delve deeper into these issues and agree upon direct action we can take. 

We selected three members to represent us on the National Committee: Arianna Tassinari, Aadam Siciid-Muuse, and Nathan Bower-Bir.

Jewish Left Caucus

A caucus of self-defining Jewish NCAFC supporters caucused towards the end of the conference, to talk about issues such as jewish political identity and anti-Semitism. Discussion focussed on a number of issues, including the recent release of anti-Semitic cartoons by the ISG in Scotland. The caucus decided not to ask for representation on the NC, but will be an active informal caucus within the campaign. If you want to be involved, email [email protected]


5. Election Results: a total of 38 elections took place

National Committee ‘Block of 14′ members (14 elected, 40% reserved for women):

  • Beth Redmond, Liverpool John Moores
  • Luke Durigan, UCL
  • Roshni Joshi, South Downs College
  • James McAsh, Edinburgh University
  • Michael Chessum, UCL and ULU
  • Gordon Maloney, Aberdeen University
  • Claire Lister, Birmingham University
  • Daniel Lemberger Cooper, Royal Holloway and ULU
  • Rosie Huzzard, Sheffield College
  • Naomi Beecroft, Edinburgh University
  • Edward Maltby, London
  • Hannah Webb, UCL
  • Simon Furse, Birmingham University
  • Matt Stanley, Mid Kent College


Scotland Region (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Mike Shaw, Edinburgh University (Open Place)
  • Megan Dunn, Aberdeen University (Women’s Place)


Wales Region (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Andrew Tindall, Aberystwyth University
  • Edmund Schluessel, Cardiff University
  • Jamie O’Brien, Aberystwyth University


London Region (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Alex Peters-Day, London School of Economics
  • Thais Yáñez, Birkbeck College


Women’s Campaign (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Esther Townsend, University of East London
  • Thais Yanez, Birkbeck
  • Beth Redmond, Liverpool John Moores
  • Alice Marshall, Hull University
  • Ella Thorp, Newcastle University
  • Hanna Moy, Edinburgh University
  • Naomi Beecroft, Edinburgh University
  • Alannah Mary Jane Ainslie, Aberdeen University
  • Hona Luisa Cohen-Fuentes, Edinburgh University


Disabled Campaign (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Edmund Schluessel, Cardiff University
  • Matthew Reuben, Royal Holloway and Cordoba


Black Power Campaign (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Ravi Maitreya Normandale, SOAS (Open Place)
  • Roshni Joshi, South Downs College (Women’s Place)


LGBTQ Campaign (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Jack Saffery-Rowe, Royal Holloway (Open Place)
  • Sarah Watson, Aberdeen University (Women’s Place)
  • Thais Yanez, Birkbeck  (Trans Place)


International Section (sharing 1 vote on the NC):

  • Arianna Tassinari, Oxford
  • Nathan Bower-Bir, Edinburgh University
  • Aadam Muuse, Bradford



6.  Motions passed in full

The NCAFC constitution which passed is now available on the website: to see it, please click here.


Standing Orders, Debating Procedure, and Safe Spaces Policy

Conference procedures

The Secretariat is responsible for allocating chairs to sessions and for running the debates, including procedural motions and compositing. They sit near the chair, and may not vote.

The debating procedure is as follows:

1. A proposing speech for the motion

2. Debates on any amendments to the main motion, which follow the procedure in 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

3. An equally timed opposing speech against the motion

4. Further debate at the chair’s discretion until the debate is balanced

5. Parts procedure

6. A vote. If the chair deems that there is a clear majority, they may declare the motion passed or fallen. If the chair cannot call the vote, the vote must be counted by the Secretariat, who may ask for assistance from members of the NC.


The parts procedure is as follows:

–          Any conference attendee may call for parts by specifying them in writing to the chair

–          The parts may be to REMOVE or PASS any part of any motion or amendment

–          The chair shall call one timed speech in favour of the parts (property of their proposer) and one equally timed speech against. They may call more if the debate is contentious and there is time.


Procedural motions are as follows

1. A challenge to the chair’s ruling on a vote: if this passes a revote on the motion or amendment will be held without further debate.

2. A call for a revote on any given amendment or motion: if this passes a revote on the motion or amendment will be held without further debate.

3. A call for a recount on any given amendment or motion: if this passes a count will take place again.

4. A call for more speeches on any given amendment or motion: if this passes, another round of speeches will be held. (The chair may also accept this motion without a vote).

5. No confidence in the Chair: if this passes, a new Chair will be elected from the floor by show of hands.

6. A call for a suspension of procedural motions: if this passes, no procedural motions may be proposed other than motion 8.

7. A call for a change in the agenda: if this passes, the agenda will be amended accordingly.

8. A reinstatement of procedural motions: if this passes, the outcome of motion 6 is reversed.


Procedural motions take precedence over the debating procedure. They can be proposed by any conference attendee.  In the case of motion 5, the Chair will vacate, and the debate will be chaired by a member of the Secretariat.


Elections at conference

The following elections shall take place at conference:

  • Elections for the National Committee
  • Elections in autonomous caucuses


The Secretariat have responsibility for co-ordinating non-autonomous elections at conference, and appointing a Returning Officer or returning Officers. Returning Officers have responsibility for running and announcing elections at conference, and may not run for election themselves.


The elections for non-autonomous elections shall be held as follows:

–          Candidates must nominate themselves by a set deadline

–          Candidates running for the same position shall be given the same allocated hustings length

–          The voting system shall be Single Transferable Vote

–          If a gender quota system is in place, ballots will be counted regardless of it in the first instance. The lowest ordinarily elected non-quota candidates will then be excluded from the count, and candidates on the quota promoted, until the quota has been satisfied.


Liberation, section and regional caucuses shall hold elections for their positions as follows:

–          Elections must be held at every conference. (Caucuses may also hold additional elections at training caucuses if they vote to do so).

–          Elections shall be run by an appointee of the caucus.

–          Candidates shall make elections speeches, and have equal time allocated

–          Elections may be approved by show of hands if any position is uncontested; if not, Alternative Vote must be used



Safer Spaces Policy

Anyone who comes to NCAFC-organised events is subject to this policy.

NCAFC cannot fully meet its goals if it is not fully inclusive, or if it leaves any demographic feeling marginalised, unrepresented, or unwelcome. This safe space policy is designed to ensure that meetings take place in a considerate and relevant manner, without participants being undermined for discriminatory reasons.

If someone violates these agreements three times, they will be asked to leave the space. The three-strike policy can be bypassed if a serious infraction of these agreements happens, to the extent that someone feels unsafe. Examples of serious infractions include, but are not limited to, harassment, bullying, theft, sexual harassment, sexual assault and threatening or violent behaviour. NCAFC takes all violations of these agreements seriously, so please don’t hesitate to make your concerns known.

1. To ensure that the safe(r) space policy is followed, it is imperative that the chairing process is not impeded.

2. Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable and will be challenged. This includes, but is not limited to: racism, ageism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, sexism, body-shaming, slut-shaming or ableism. Similarly, prejudice based on ethnicity, nationality, class, gender identity, gender presentation, language, ability, asylum status, political or religious affiliation will not be tolerated.

3. Respect each other’s physical and emotional boundaries. Always get explicit verbal consent before touching someone or crossing boundaries, regardless of the intentions behind the contact. Sexual harassment or sexual assault will lead to the perpetrator being banned from meetings and police involvement, if desired by the victim(s), will be fully supported. If you encounter any kind of harassment or assault please let us know, so that those responsible can be dealt with.

4. Be aware of the social space you occupy, as well as the positions and privileges you may be conveying, including racial, class and gender privilege. If a member of a liberation strand requests that you change your use of language regarding topics about their liberation strand, please be respectful and change your use of language. If you are unsure as to the reason your language was inappropriate or offensive, please politely contact the relevant liberation strand officers.

5. Avoid assuming the opinions and identifications of other participants. Examples include, but are not limited to, assumptions regarding sex, sexuality, gender identity, preferred personal pronouns, neurotypicality, able-bodied status, socio-economic background, political opinion, relationship model and religious beliefs.

6. Recognize that we try not to judge, put each other down or compete.

7. Be aware of the language you use in discussion and how you relate to others. Try to speak slowly, clearly and use uncomplicated language. Please do not applaud people as it impacts on the accessibility of events. If you are unsure of the terminology relating to another’s circumstances it is generally preferable to seek clarification, rather than risk using inaccurate or stereotyping terms.

8. The group endeavours as much as is feasible to ensure that meeting spaces are as accessible as possible to the widest range of people. Where it is allowed by the venue, there will be a supervised quiet/safe space room available at every event. In addition to this, if there has not been an access break in the previous 90 minutes, or if the atmosphere of a meeting has become counter-productive to reasoned discussion, then an access break of no less than 10 minutes must be taken by everyone, if requested by any one person.

9. Conferences, training events and workshops are alcohol- and illicit drug-free. There shall be no consumption of alcohol in the venue during the specified conference, training event or workshop times. Social events organised outside of these by NCAFC will allow the consumption of alcohol, unless stated otherwise by the event organisers.

10. Foster a spirit of mutual respect: listen to the wisdom everyone brings to the group and treat people with respect.

11. Give each person the time and space to speak. In large groups, or for groups using facilitation: use the approved hand signals to indicate you wish to speak. These hand signals will be clarified at the start of each discussion.

12. “Respect the person; challenge their behaviour.”: whilst a person’s behaviour may be problematic, everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and their behaviour does not negate that fact.

13. Whilst ground rules are collective responsibility, everyone is also personally responsible for their own behaviour.


Challenging Bullying in the student movement


1. A culture of bullying is rife throughout the NUS and its member unions, targeted at anyone who challenges established order.


1. This culture puts the health of many student activists and the health of the student movement at risk.

2. This culture is not confined to any one faction or political aligment.


1. We will work to propose a constructive solution to the culture of bullying in the student movement

2. We will speak openly about bullying and its consequences

3. We will examine our own behaviour as individuals and a movement as a step to this openness.


Access at NCAFC Events


1 *That there are a number of disabled people, and people with access requirements that regularly attend, or might wish to attend NCAFC events

2 *That NCAFC currently has no accessibility policy

3 *That NCAFC Disabled Caucus ran a session on access needs during the liberation session, and took suggestions for what would be necessary from as many people as possible


1 *That more disabled people will feel comfortable attending NCAFC events if access information is made clear from the outset

2 *That access has been severely compromised at previous NCAFC events and this is not acceptable


1 *To implement the following as standard for all NCAFC Events:

-A method of asking people to declare access needs when registering for the conference

-Documents (motions, timetable, any other documents) being released online as .doc and .pdf a week in advance of the conference to allow people time to print or prepare for them as necessary

-The venue being a location with accessible public transport links

-Information regarding whether the venue is wheelchair accessible to be released at the same time as the venue is released

-Access breaks of at least 15 minutes, at least every 90 minutes, to be standard, timetabled, and not to be voted on

-Explanation being given to all delegates regarding the inappropriate nature of clapping and whooping, and hand signals to be explained instead

-Explanation being given about why ableist language is no more acceptable than homophobic, transphobic, racist, or sexist language

2 *To attempt to implement the following at all NCAFC events, and inform attendees as early as possible if this cannot be implemented

-A timetable to be kept to exactly, without any unexpected changes, delays or alterations

-A microphone and hearing loop system, both to ensure people are able to hear the debate

-All venues to be fully wheelchair accessible, with ramps and lifts as necessary

-Members of the NC who can be approached for assistance to be easily visually identifiable

-All documents available on coloured paper or with coloured acetate overlays

-Sweets and water to be available on or near conference floor

-A quiet area to be present for people if they wish to leave conference floor


1 *The NC to implement all of Resolves 1 for every further event

2 *The NC to attempt to implement Resolves 2 for every further event and inform attendees when this will not be possible

3 *The NC to look into the viability of a palantypist, sign interpretation, streaming, and large video screens of speakers for future events

4* Whomever is responsible for putting together a timetable to discuss it with the representative(s) of disabled caucus on the NC before it is released, to ensure it is accessible.


Developing the NCAFC

The NCAFC has now existed for almost three years. During that time the campaign has served an irreplaceable function as the only national left-wing student organisation uniting in struggle, on the basis of honest cooperation and an open democracy, activists with widely differing political views. This has allowed us to play a major role.

The British student movement is noticeably stronger than it was four years ago. However, compared to the upheavals of late 2010 and early 2011, there is a relative lull. It is vital that we use this space to solidify our organisation, reach out to wider layers of activists, step up our political agitation, education and self-education, and develop our campaigns.

It is important that we do not think of the student movement as just waiting for the next big bang. Even a much bigger organisation than ours currently is cannot create mass movements at will. None of us predicted the revolt of winter 2010-11 (though with hindsight we can see its precursors in the Gaza occupations of 2009 and the local anti-cuts battles of 2009-10); no one in Quebec predicted their 2012 student uprising. Major differences between the Quebecois student movement and ours not withstanding, the lesson from Quebec is that ASSE built a solid organisation active in many campaigns and undertaking many initiatives during the quieter periods, creating the conditions for the upheaval, playing a central role in its victory – and developing its organisation out of the struggle.

What we need to do is help student activists Educate, Agitate and Organise around a range of issues, developing our ideas, organisation and campaigns on a variety of levels.

Some of what we need to do will be dealt with in other motions. But over the next sixth months development of the NCAFC should include:

1. On an organisational level: a better functioning, more regularly meeting National Committee, which creates subcommittees and working groups to research and organise on a variety of issues; a proper system of affiliations by local groups, student unions etc; and a concerted drive to extend our network of contact with local groups.
2. Seeking to develop broad, non-sectarian, united student anti-cuts/mobilising committees on every campus, with a focus on fighting cuts and privatisation and making links with campus workers as they resist the squeeze on their pay, terms and conditions which seems to be the main feature of management attacks this year.
3. Relaunching and developing existing campaigns such as Take Back Your Campus and the VC Pledge.
4. Developing campaigns on issues which affect or interest large numbers of students, but are currently neglected by the organised student left, such as housing and the NHS.
5. Building a solid network of FE and school student activists through Schools and Colleges Against Fees and Cuts.
6. Develop the work with and among international students done in the last months.
7. Running a political campaign on who should pay for free education and to rebuild education and public services, focused on two key demands: tax the rich/business and expropriate the banks.
8. Producing more and better NCAFC materials.

9. Extending and developing our international links.
10. Producing materials on the content, purpose and control of education under the title “Education for Liberation”.


• Student Worker Motion

This Conference Notes:

  1. A NUS survey noted – “The overwhelming majority of students, three out of four, take on paid employment to help make ends meet, either during term time or during the holidays. Holiday work is more popular than term time work, with 51 per cent of students planning to work during the holidays” (NUS Student Experience Report, 2008, p.33).
  2. These forms of employment are usually unskilled, low paid and casualised such as within bar or retail work.
  3. The “Supersize My Pay” campaign from the UNITE union in New Zealand which broke legal minimum wage discrimination that existed for the minimum waged young workers as well as the recent Wal-Mart and fast food industrial actions in the USA.
  4. Progress already made by the GMB Trade Union Southern Region Young Members, Royal Holloway University and the University of London Union (ULU) in establishing student worker networks and the successes particularly at Royal Holloway already of winning conditions for students and fighting for recognition with the student union there.


This Conference Believes:

  1. That we must begin to help organise students who work on campus and elsewhere not just for better conditions, but as a fundamentally political activity, one that can equip students when they leave university with the skills in their workplaces to fight back but also be part of transforming the labour movement in the here and now.
  2. That NCAFC wherever it is present needs to be part of the argument that students should see themselves as workers: that education we receive is the product of labour, from cleaners, admins to lecturers etc. and to join with these workers for better conditions for all.


This Conference Resolves:

  1. To help co-sponsor a speaking tour in the new year of a Wal-Mart and/or fast food striking worker around the UK.
  2. To support circulation in print and online of “Know Your Rights” material to disseminate everywhere NCAFC has a presence in a similar way to ULU.
  3. To advertise online and in print all efforts towards establishing student worker networks and task the incoming national committee to discussions with local Trade Union branches – holding recruitment days on campus, running workshops etc.
  4. Encourage all students not in employment to be involved with initiatives to unionise and organise the unemployed, including but not limited to the UNITE community branches. The incoming national committee should contact and begin discussions with UNITE and other such initiatives on how this can be done.


Defend the NHS!

Conference notes
1. The battles taking place on many fronts to defend the NHS from the Tories’ attempts to dismember it.
2. The recent springing up of many more powerful local campaigns, including for instance the battle to save Lewisham A&E, which has seen many thousands of people on the streets.
3. That many students are active in, and many more interested in and could become involved in, this struggle.

Conference believes
1. That the NHS represents a limited piece of the what Marx called “the political economy of the working class”, putting the interests of human beings before the interests of profit – like our demand for free education in public, democratic education system.
2. That the NCAFC needs to mobilise students in defence of public services and the welfare state beyond education, and that this is a crucial part of that fight.

Conference resolves
1. To produce a guide to the issues surrounding the NHS and how students can become active campaigning to defend it.
2. To investigate organising a student day or week of action in defence of the NHS.
3. To approach organisations including the medical student network Medsin, BMA Students, Keep Our NHS Public and the NHS Unity Network to organise a joint campaign.
4. To add our name to the statement to rebuild the NHS being circulated by the NHS Unity Network (see below).


Labour: rebuild the NHS!

We are campaigning for the Labour Party to develop and fight for the policy on the NHS agreed by its conference, and for the next Labour government to carry it out.

Numerous Constituency Labour Parties submitted policy to the 2012 party conference calling for a clear commitment to repealing the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act, reversing privatisation and marketisation, and restoring the NHS as a public service. The conference passed a composite resolution based on these motions unanimously.

We welcome commitment to repeal the Act, but reject arguments against top down reorganisation. The Health and Social Care Act represented a comprehensive reorganisation to subordinate the NHS to market forces. We want a comprehensive reorganisation of the health service in order to save and restore it.

We want a return to the founding principles of the NHS: quality healthcare for all on the basis of need, as a right, in a publicly owned, publicly funded, publicly provided and publicly accountable system. To achieve that, we will campaign for and demand Labour campaigns for:

1. Repeal of the Health and Social Care Act
2. Abolition of the new provision allowing 49 percent private beds in NHS hospitals
3. Restoration of the Secretary of State’s duty to provide a comprehensive service
4. NHS organisations to be the preferred provider of care in all cases
5. Reversal of the Tories’ funding cuts and provision of adequate funding
6. Abolition of the obscenely wasteful and inefficient internal market/purchaser-provider split
7. Replacement of PFI, also obscenely wasteful, with direct funding; write off existing PFI debt
8. Halting and reversal of privatisation and outsourcing at every level
9. Abolition of Foundation Trusts, replacement of CCGs by democratic local health authorities
10. Decent, national pay, terms and conditions and pensions for NHS workers, and a democratic voice for them in how the service is run.

We reject the argument that there is no money in society to pay for restoring the health service. The NHS was created at a time when British society as a whole was much poorer than now. Taxation of rising dividend payments and the incomes of the rich, and using the wealth of the nationalised banks for social purposes, are potentially rich sources of funds. In addition, abolishing market mechanisms and PFI would save many billions.

We will work with comrades in the Labour Party, health workers’ organisations, the broader trade union movement and NHS campaigners to defend our health service and fight for these policies.



Bring Back EMA!

Conference believes:


1.  The scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) was a grave error.

2.  This scrapping of the EMA was done is spite of Michael Gove, now-Education Secretary famously saying in early 2010 before the general election: “Ed Balls keeps saying that we are committed to scrapping the EMA. I have never said this. We won’t.”

3.  EMA allowed students from some of the poorest families to access Further Education, and its abolition has had a hugely detrimental impact, hitting young women and Black students particularly hard.

4.  Evidence from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, found that the EMA increased the proportion of young people who stayed in education from 65% to 69% among 16-year-olds and from 54% to 61% among 17-year-olds.

5. Our fight for social justice and accessible public education is not conditional on its “benefiting the economy” or “being good for growth”.

6. EMA has continued in Wales, albeit in a diminished form, and remains an invaluable part of support for college students

7. Indications from Welsh Labour and from the Labour Party nationally both show a long-standing intent to stop EMA in Wales when the school leaving age is raised to 18.

8. EMA has been secured in Wales through 2014

9. The Welsh Government has instead decided to take the lead on privatising & marketising colleges in Wales



Conference further believes:


1.  EMA wasn’t scrapped without a fight. An enormous, spontaneous FE student uprising took on the government in 2010 to demand EMA was saved. Despite hundreds of thousands of students protesting, occupying and walking out of their colleges this Tory-led government ignored a generation.

2.  But the government also radicalised a generation and the anger over the scrapping of the EMA remains.

3. That while the scrapping of EMA was a terrible thing, and an attack on working class students, it would be a mistake simply to call for the reintroduction of something that was never good enough in the first place.
4. Simply saying something easy and populist is not the way to win a serious political campaign. We need a better and broader analysis of FE policy
5. If we call only for the reinstatement of EMA we are letting down everyone who has been hit by other cuts in FE, which are less glib to talk about.
6. We call for living grants for all students: this includes FE
7. The 2010 student occupations in Wales were specifically cited by the Welsh Government in explaining their decision to continue EMA

8. Other grants in Wales have however been cut

9. Youth Fight for Jobs Wales, Action Against Cuts Cardiff, Aberystwyth Radical Forum and other anti-cuts groups in Wales advocate opposition to all cuts to public sector jobs and services

10. Campaigning around single issues in isolation is less effective than coherent, broad campaigns with the ultimate goal of a democratically-run socialist education system.
1. To do our homework on school and FE funding policy, and produce a detailed set of analyses and demands
2. To call for living grants for students – not simply the reinstatement of EMA

3. To invite activists from the Wales anti-cuts movement to write a guest blog for NCAFC detailing their success in defending EMA

4. To continue opposition to all cuts and public criticism of all elected officials who vote for cuts

5. To integrate campaigning to save EMA into a broad and coherent strategy around college students, including but not limited to: building fighting college students’ unions; opposing privatisation & marketisation; opposing market-driven mergers and cuts in courses and lecturers; resisting all fees in education; and more things that I don’t have time to list since the amendments deadline is in 2 minutes

6. To have more time to submit amendments next year


The labour movement and free education


Conference notes

1. That almost all trade unions have policy for free education.
2. That the Labour Party’s policy to reduce fees from £9k to £6k was not decided democratically by any Labour Party body, but – like so much Labour Party policy – made up by the leadership.

Conference believes
1. That even the incredibly limited promises the Labour leadership has made are unlikely to fulfilled without a fight.
2. That it is necessary for the labour movement and student movement to make clear demands on the Labour Party and the next Labour government.
3. That this is not at all counterposed to our fundamental method of struggle on our campuses and in the streets. The point is not to politely petition Ed Miliband, but to seek to bring pressure to bear through every possible channel.
4. That in the first instance this means seeking clear policy on education in the unions, and demanding they seek to impose this policy on/in Labour.

Conference resolves
1. To work with labour movement activists to seek to establish a “Trade unions for free education” coalition.
2. To approach left-wingers in Young Labour including LRC Youth about organising a joint campaign to demand the Labour Party changes its policies on education.
3. To produce a manifesto for education and seek to win support for it in the labour movement.


Student housing


NCAFC notes
1. That prices for student accommodation have doubled in the last ten years, with average weekly rent being £117.69.
2. That this is partly because of an increased use of private accommodaiton.
3. That student support (grants/loans) only just covers the cost of rent and leaves almost nothing for actual living.
4. That this has forced many students into finding (mostly low-paid, precarious) work and/or taking out large commercial bank loans.
5. That NUS has produced materials on this issue, but neither radical demands nor a visible campaign.
NCAFC believes
1. That accommodation quality and costs are in reality as much of an issue for students as fees, and need to be campaigned on.
2. That we should, minimally, be demanding rents which cover the cost of running accommodation but do not make a huge profit for the landowner/company.3. That this will require both local campaigns and national coordination with a clear set of demands.
NCAFC resolves
1. To produce a campaign pack on campaigning over the issue of housing, including a charter of basic demands – including the demand that absolutely no one should pay over £100 a week.
2. To encourage supporting anticuts groups and SUs to campaign on this issue.
3. To raise this issue in motions to NUS conference.
4. To link demands around student housing to broader questions of the cost of private rented accommodation, the lack of council housing, access to and level of Housing Benefit and other benefits etc.


Abolish all debt


Conference Believes

  1. Personal debt in the UK stands at £1.412 trillion, an average of £53,706 per household
  2. Student debts under the new fees regime will mean an automatic debt of £27,000 – for a home/EU student on an undergraduate course in England (and £36,000 in Scotland). Once living costs are taken into account, this may well come to over £50,000
  3. Postgraduate and international students take on vast sums of debt and frequently support their studies with commercial loans
  4. The past few years has seen a significant increase in loan sharks and pay day loans targeting students.
  5. Abject poverty, lack of access to basic things like food, shelter and wearable clothes, is not uncommon for some students – especially those with no support from home or parents.
  6. A large proportion of students are forced to take on part time work – if they can get it – to cover their living costs.
  7. Debt is a cause of mental health problems, and of suicide. On 4th December the Huffington Post reported the death of a 23 year old unemployed graduate.

Conference Further Believes

  1. Debt is a major source of misery and poverty for a huge proportion of the population in modern society
  2. Debt is a class issue: it purchases our time, committing us to work longer and harder, while the profits of our work are enjoyed only by a privileged elite.
  3. The call for abolition of student debt is sound and would find serious support among students
  4. The call for abolition of student debt is capable of serving a broader struggle against the present arrangement of society: it could be the tip of the iceberg for a much bigger campaign for the abolition of all debt.

Conference Resolves

  1. To make the abolition of student debt a major political priority
  2. To produce articles and materials on the politics of debt and connected issues
  3. To make debt an issue for any Activist Welfare activities that we undertake



The Left and NUS

Conference Resolves

1. To work towards a united left intervention at NUS Conference that involves common themes and a slate for the NUS Elections




Emergency motion – support the student movement in Sri Lanka!

1. That since 28 November teachers and students in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, have been on strike against the arrest of leading Tamil activists at their university, including three senior figures from the SU.
2. That the students were brutally attacked by government paramilities that have set up in an office opposite the university.
3. That last months police and intelligence officers invaded the university, breaking into and ransacking student rooms. When MPs and prominent journalists visited the scene, they were also attacked – as were the 400 students who marched in protest.
3. That all this follows a systematic pattern of repression against Tamils which has been going on since the defeat of Tamil nationalists by the Sri Lankan military in 2009.

1. To support the protesters in Jaffna and send a message of solidarity from this conference.
2. To send a message of protest to the Sri Lankan High Commission.
3. To seek to make links with student activists in Sri Lanka