Left-wing motions for NUS National Conference 2016

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

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

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

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

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


Contents

[Word counts in square brackets]

Welfare Zone

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

Education Zone

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

Society & Citizenship Zone

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

Union Development Zone

  • Free speech and no platform [313]
  • For democratic, campaigning student unions [259]
  • Defending Our Unions [308]
  • Make FE union development our #1 priority [499]

Annual General Meeting (motions about how NUS works!)

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

Welfare Zone

#GrantsNotDebt!

Conference Believes

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

Conference Resolves

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

The rent is too damn high!

Conference believes

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

Conference further believes

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

Conference resolves

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

Defend our local services

Amendment to “SOS – Save Our Services”

ADD:

Conference believes

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

Conference further believes

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

Conference resolves

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

Action to beat Prevent

Conference believes

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

Conference further believes

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

Conference resolves

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

Education Zone

Education not for sale – stop the HE reforms

Amendment to “Divorce our courses from market forces”

ADD:

Conference believes:

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

Conference further believes:

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

Conference resolves:

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

#StopCollegeCuts – Oppose the FE Area Reviews

Conference believes:

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

Conference further believes:

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

Conference resolves:

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

Trade union rights

Amendment to “Employability isn’t working”

ADD:

Conference believes

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

Conference further believes

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

Conference resolves

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

Society & Citizenship Zone

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

Conference believes

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

Conference further believes

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

Conference resolves

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

Defend Migrants: Another Europe is Possible

Conference believes

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

Conference further believes

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

Conference resolves

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

Climate change

Conference believes

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

Conference further believes

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

Conference resolves

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

A good local community school for every student

Conference believes

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

Conference further believes

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

Resolves

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

Syria, Daesh, Kurdistan and the war

Conference Believes

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

Conference Further Believes

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

Resolves

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

Union Development Zone

Free speech and no platform

Conference believes

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

Conference further believes

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

Conference resolves

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

For democratic, campaigning student unions

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

DELETE: CR2, CR3

ADD:

Conference believes

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

Conference further believes

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

Conference resolves

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

Defending Our Unions

Amendment to “The Impact of Student Opportunities”

ADD:

Conference Believes:

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

Conference Further Believes:

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

Conference Resolves:

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

Make FE union development our #1 priority

Conference believes

  1. The most pressing union development need in NUS is in further education. FE students constitute a huge majority of NUS’s membership, but make up a tiny proportion of those who attend training events; who become FTOs; and who attend as delegates at democratic conferences. This is despite the fact that FE is facing a massive assault from the government.
  2. Despite this, NUS UK has spent a very small proportion of its time and political focus building autonomous FE unions.
  3. Much of the personal effort of NUS UK officers, and much of the focus for NUS’s governance review processes, has been grounded in “listening” to a narrow demographic of sabbatical officers in higher education. This is a comfort zone for many of NUS’s national leadership: sabbs are often people like them, who have the same political agendas, and the same pre-occupation with democratic bodies passing policy they don’t like.
  4. Many of the outcomes of NUS’s governance reviews and internal developments have reflected this: they have produced a whole set of events – such as Zone Conferences and the annual SU convention – which are geared towards catering for sabbs, and require significant resources to attend.

Conference further believes

  1. The reason why there such a low participation of FE students in NUS is not because FE students are apathetic. It is primarily because many FE unions do not exist in a meaningful form: some do not hold elections, or have democratic structures.
  2. NUS should spend more time building mass participation, and less time telling sabbs that they are special and clever. Our number one priority in union development, and in any future governance reviews, should be engaging the mass of NUS’s membership: by educating, training and supporting students in FE to organise and form activist groups on their campuses to oppose the onslaught of attacks on FE and to push for, alongside the NUS, the creation of autonomous, democratic unions in every school, college and university.

Conference resolves

  1. To make the development and creation of activist groups and unions in further education our number one priority in the Union Development Zone.
  2. Mass education, training and support to equip FE students with the knowledge and skills to form activist groups on campus to organise against attacks on FE and to push for the creation of unions
  3. FE union development means:
    1. Autonomous unions, that have their own resources and cannot be interfered with by management
    2. Unions having access to their own membership data and contact details
    3. An executive of officers elected by cross campus ballot
    4. Regular democratic meetings: an elected council or general meetings
    5. Full time officers
    6. Functioning and autonomous liberation groups
  4. To launch a review of NUS’s events, with the aim of making a much higher proportion of them accessible and relevant to students – including FE students – and not to a relatively tiny number of sabbs and “senior leaders”.

Annual General Meeting

Governance reviews – some basic principles

Conference believes

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

Conference resolves

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

Fund the Block to do their jobs

Conference believes

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

Conference further believes

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

Conference resolves

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

Regional organising – make it a priority

Conference believes

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

Conference resolves

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

Make conference more accessible and representative

Conference believes

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

Conference further believes

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

Conference resolves

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

NUS should oppose EU exit: but not by joining hands with Tories and big business

europe against austerityBen Towse, NUS Postgraduate Committee

The upcoming referendum could see the UK quit the EU in a storm of nationalism, xenophobia, conservatism and “Little Englander” isolationism, tearing up social and human rights and further shutting down freedom of movement. The consequences would be dire, and NCAFC members at our most recent conference rightly voted to campaign against exit.

We discovered in today’s news that our NUS President Megan Dunn has joined the official “In Campaign” board, alongside Conservative, Lib Dem and Blairite politicians, business leaders and the former head of the Army.

It is good that the President is respecting NUS policy by campaigning against exit. However, this is the wrong way to do it. And by reports from other NUS officers and representatives, Dunn did this entirely without consultation or democratic input (which is becoming a bit of a habit for her).

We don’t just oppose exit, we also oppose the current state of the EU. It guarantees freedom of movement for many, but erects a “Fortress Europe” against migrants. It helps guarantee certain rights, but enforces neoliberal economic policies. It is painted as a beacon of solidarity between nations, but its democracy is lacking and it stands for, and imposes, the interests of the rich and powerful – the ruling class.

Of course, having the UK quit won’t solve any of these problems. Our national governments are no better, and hold no more potential for the left than the EU does. The left cannot argue to retreat into our respective nation-states and re-raise borders and division: that can only be reactionary. Instead, we have to fight for a better Europe, and indeed a better world – open borders and genuine democracy, freedom and social justice – a socialist Europe and a socialist world. Transforming Europe will require a massive fight by an internationalist left, based in the workers’ movement and on an understanding of the fundamentally opposed interests that are at play. We can only win people to this campaign by setting out our ideas clearly, and drawing an uncompromising line between ourselves and those who want the EU to remain a tool of business and the ruling class.

The campaign against exit cannot and must not be separated from our efforts to transform Europe. By joining forces with Tories, business leaders and generals to campaign against exit, the NUS President is providing them with left cover and, in practice, helping them to reinforce the status quo. Any attempt to put forward a distinct vision will be futile unless we as a movement break with those people.

Instead of joining the same team as our opponents, the student movement should link up with the labour movement and the rest of the left, in the UK and across Europe, to fuse an independent campaign against exit with a forward-looking, positive campaign for a democratic, socially just Europe. Our campaign should be democratic and grassroots, not run by a self-appointed board. And it should focus energy right now on opposing David Cameron’s attempts to renegotiate the terms of union to attack migrants, workers or civil liberties. We have to stop the tide, and start pushing it back in the other direction.

Have an opinion on this? NCAFC wants to facilitate debate among its members and can publish opinion articles and responses – email [email protected]

Emergency motion proposed to 3 Dec NUS National Exec after free education demo

NCAFCNCAFC members and supporters have submitted the following emergency motion to the 3 December NUS National Executive Council meeting in Liverpool, follwing the success of our free education demo.

In the aftermath of the appalling move by the NUS leadership to withdraw support in the run-up to the demonstration (despite a democratic mandate from the NEC), we demand that our national union reinstates its support for a meaningful campaign for free education. A meaningful campaign – a campaign that can win – must embrace protest and direct action, such as the days of action that NCAFC has called on 3 and 6 December. It must respond firmly against violence and repression inflicted on student protesters by police. And it must hold to account both the Coalition government and Labour for their failures on the question of education funding.

We are calling on the NUS National Executive to pass this motion and commit to the fight.

EMERGENCY MOTION: RESPONSE TO 19 NOVEMBER DEMONSTRATION

NUS NEC notes

1. The big turn out, positive vibe and impact of the 19 November free education demonstration.
2. The violence and repression police once again handed out to student protesters, including arrests, assaults by the cops and one student from Goldsmiths who was badly beaten and had to go to hospital immediately after his release.
3. That the government has responded to the demo by saying that it has no intention of abolishing fees, and that free education is incompatible with well-funded universities; while the Labour Party has not responded at all.
4. That the racists of UKIP demagogically “expressed support” for the demo, while also condemning alleged student violence.

NUS NEC believes

1. That the thousands of students who worked to make the demonstration a success should be congratulated.
2. That it is vital that NUS speaks out, firstly, to condemn the police response and secondly to challenge the government and Labour on the question of education funding.

NUS NEC resolves

1. To reaffirm our support for free education.
2. To issue a statement condemning the police violence on the demo, and replying to the government’s claims (we want a free, well-resourced education system, in both FE and HE, and other services funded by taking wealth from the rich).
3. To include a call on Labour to adopt free education as its policy.
4. To support and promote the upcoming 3 and 6 December days of action.

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.

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

USI Congress 2013 – Report from Aisling Gallagher, NUS USI Women’s Officer

NCAFC are republishing this statement and report from USI Congress, by Aisling Gallagher, NUS USI Women’s Officer

[Read more…]

Make NUS Fight! Statement on the National Union of Students Conference 2013

To add your name to this statement, email [email protected] or ring 07840 136 728

We the undersigned are fighting for this year’s National Union of Students conference to dramatically change NUS’s direction.

The anti-privatisation struggle at Sussex University, including the magnificent demonstration on 25 March, once again shows the student movement’s huge potential. But at the moment NUS is not helping to fulfil that potential.

No organisation, even the most grassroots-based, democratic and militant, can generate mass movements at will. But a national student union could act to educate, organise and mobilise its members so that struggles are more likely and that when they happen, they can win – as took place with CLASSE in Quebec.

NUS is not the only possible framework for national student coordination. Nonetheless, it is important. Many thousands of students across the country look to it; the vast majority of student unions are affiliated; and the national union has financial and human resources which could be used more effectively to massively boost the movement.

At this year’s NUS conference, we will be supporting activist left candidates for the National Executive Council. This year a larger number of activist, left-wing SU officers have been elected – we want to carry that through into the national union, to win a new NUS leadership. We will also be fighting to change NUS policy and pushing for left wing policies passed this year and in previous years to be carried out.

We oppose all cuts to services, jobs and benefits. We demand the cancellation of student debt, free education and living grants for all students, in higher and further education. We demand taxation of the rich and expropriation of the banks – which were bailed out at our expense, but continue to function to make profits and generate inequality – to fund decent education and services for all. Instead of just “celebrating the public value of education”, we want a fight against privatisation and for a public, democratically run education system. We want NUS to campaign seriously on student housing and in defence of the NHS.

We demand one hundred percent support for struggles like Sussex. We want a year-long campaign of demonstrations, protests, direct action and occupations, coordinated with workers’ struggles, to push back cuts, privatisation and fees and go on the offensive. We want a real campaign to help FE students organise and mobilise. We support building a ‘Take Back Your Campus’ campaign for the right to organise and protest, and for democracy in how our institutions are run.

Instead of relying on the Labour Party leadership and the Lib Dems, NUS should be fighting to overthrow the Coalition and working with the trade unions and the left to impose radical demands on the next Labour government.

We stand in solidarity with workers on our campuses and beyond. We support the fight for a Living Wage and a Living Minimum Wage. We want to organise students who work. We demand tough measures including links with the Workers’ Rights Consortium to ensure workers producing university/college merchandise have union rights. We want the anti-union laws abolished so workers can fight for their rights.

We want NUS to take strong stands for migrants’ rights, against immigration controls, for a woman’s right to choose and against racism and fascism.

Last but not least, we support the many motions that have been submitted to expand NUS democracy. We want resources moved from bureaucracy to democracy and campaigning. We support increasing the size and length of conference. We oppose the proposal attacking student unions’ and Liberation Campaigns’ rights to submit as many motions as they want, within the word limit. We also support a fight for more democracy in student unions, and for NUS to side clearly with sabbs victimised by SU management for political campaigning.

Please sign and circulate this statement!

James McAsh, NCAFC NC, Edinburgh University President, NUS VP UD Candidate
Rosie Huzzard, NCAFC NC, Sheffield College, NUS VP Welfare & Block of 15 Candidate, PCS DWP Sheffield Young Members Officer
Thais Yanez, NCAFC NC, Birkbeck College, NUS Block of 15 Candidate
Daniel Lemberger-Cooper, NCAFC NC, ULU Vice President
Hona-Luisa Cohen-Fuentes, NCAFC Womens Committee, Edinburgh University External Council
Edward Maltby, NCAFC NC
Beth Redmond, NCAFC NC, Liverpool John Moores University
Jack Saffery-Rowe, NCAFC LGBTQ Rep (open place), Royal Holloway SU LGBT Officer-elect
Ben Towse, UCL Union Postgraduate Students’ Officer & UCL UCU Branch Executive Committee (pc)
Rob Henthorn, NCAFC Scotland Committee, Aberdeen University
Oli Rushby, Trustee, Royal Holloway Students’ Union
Jamie Green, SURHUL Vice President & NUS Delegate
Roshni Joshi, NUC NEC & NCAFC NC
Omar Raii, UCL Union NUS Delegate & Halls Representative
Michael Segalov, Sussex Against Privatisation
Kelly Parry, Vice President Edinburgh College Students’ Association, NUS Scotland SEC (priority campaign convener), NCAFC member
Gary Paterson, Scottish Executive Committee (Communities Campaign Convener) Elect, NUS Scotland & University Strathclyde Students Association.
Alannah Ainslie, NCAFC Womens committee, Aberdeen University.
Lani Baird, President Aberdeen College, NCAFC Scotland LGBTQ Rep (intersectional), FE Rep NUS Scotland & UK LGBT committee 2011-13, FE Rep NUS UK Womens’ Committee 2013-14
Alex Peters-Day, LSESU general secretary
Esther Townsend, NCAFC Women’s Committee & University of East London)

NCAFC and NUS on Joint Committee on Human Rights at Parliament

Simon Hardy, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, and Aaron Porter, National Union of Students, have given witness of police infringement of human rights on the last student demonstrations.

On the table was particularly the “kettling” technique and overall police violence.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights consists of twelve members appointed from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Committee is charged with considering human rights issues in the UK.

The Committee undertakes thematic inquiries on human rights issues and reports its findings and recommendations to the House. It scrutinises all Government Bills and picks out those with significant human rights implications for further examination.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), chaired by Andrew Dismore MP, consists of Members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Thematic Inquiries

As part of its work, the Committee undertakes inquiries into human rights issues during which it seeks evidence from a wide range of groups and individuals with relevant interests and experience. Initially the Committee calls for written evidence from interested parties, which is usually followed by taking oral evidence from a selection of those who submitted written evidence.

A report is usually then produced setting out the Committee’s findings and making recommendations to the Government.

Aaron Porter issues support for occupations

This morning at 11am, NUS President Aaron Porter visited UCL Occupation to apologise for his “dithering” over support for autonomous student action, and agreed to advocate occupations as a legitimate form of protest against fees and cuts, as well as pledging political, legal and financial aid for all existant and future student occupations.

Occupiers issued the following list of demands to Porter, all of which were agreed to unconditionally:

  • to publicly support all student occupations- on the frontpage of the NUS website and all available media.
  • to call immediately for a new wave of occupations as a legitimate form of protest against fees and cuts.
  • to organise financial, legal & political aid for all current and future occupations.
  • to call a national day of action on the day of the parliamentary vote on tuition fees.
  • to officially support any staff taking further industrial action on cuts in the education sector.

The occupation of the Jeremy Bentham Room in UCL began on Wednesday at 12:15pm as part of NCAFC’s national day of action. Occupiers held the President, who has become a widely controversial figure in the student movement in recent weeks, to account.

He also criticised the NUS for being “spineless” over recent years by refusing to support student protests.

The UCL Occupation intends to continue indefinitely until its demands of the university management, including the issuing of a public statement against fee rises and HE budget cuts, are met. You can support those demands here.

A number of NCAFC activists are involved in the UCL Occupation. The liberated Jeremy Bentham Room is in fact the location of NCAFC’s founding convention.

Tweet your solidarity with the UCL occupiers: http://twitter.com/ucloccupation

Aaron Porter talks at UCL Occupation

… and in The Independent (15 November)

The Independent‘s Education Editor, Richard Garner, has published today the article “Students retreat from national demonstrations”, in which he mentions the way in which the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is splitting the student movement.

Mr Garner is, naturally, refering to the dichotomy between the National Union of Students leadership and the NCAFC about the National Walkout and Day of Action on the 24th of November. [Read more…]

National Demo Route

After meeting up early on the 10th of November at ULU, the Free Educartion Bloc feeder march is joining UCU and NUS at Horse Guards Avenue.

From there the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and everyone else is marching all the way to the rally in London Bridge.

We will be posting our route (ULU – Horse Guards Ave) soon, but in the meantime you can have a look at the logistics of the national demonstration and at a map of the route here.