Gemma Tumelty is the NUS National President and the first NUS President from a post-1992 University. She was previously a sabbatical officer at Liverpool John Moores University and graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Applied Psychology.
I've been president of NUS since July 2006, and already since then, I?ve spoken as the voice of students over 100 times. I?ve got the right to speak on behalf of UK students because I lead the National Union of Students UK, a democratic organisation where policy is decided at our Annual Conference, the largest democratic conference of it?s kind. The NUS National President speaks on behalf of the largest democratic student movement in the world. I?ve spoken to Ministers, to Government officials and to numerous broadcast and print media, including appearances on BBC News, ITV, Channel 4 News, Sky News, More 4 News, Radio 1, Radio 4 and 5Live. When I?m asked to speak, what I say reflects and represents the ?voice of UK students?, the sad thing is, when I?m thinking of what to say, I never think about Imperial?s words, what Imperial students want, what Imperial students need. I?ve no way to hear your voice, you don?t talk to me, you are not my member. You can change that, you can speak to me, so that I can speak for you?. How? Just VOTE YES to NUS.
I want to say how much I am looking forward to the upcoming affiliation referendum at Imperial. It will give this generation of Imperial students a chance missed by the generations before - the chance to sign both themselves and their union up to the wide range of benefits that NUS offers. It has been 5 years since students at Imperial last had the chance to decide on their membership to the National Union, and a lot has changed in those 5 years, both in the education sector, but more importantly inside NUS.
When I had my first interaction with NUS as a part time women?s officer in my students? union 5 years ago, I found it hard to engage with the processes, the structures, and really struggled to understand how NUS made an impact on me as an officer, but most importantly on my members at Liverpool Students' Union. It was because of my less than positive experience that I decided to get involved, to see if I could make a difference. And, I think I, and many others involved in NUS since 2001 really have.
The last few years in NUS have been spent making the work of the National Union more relevant to the needs of our members (students? unions) and our member?s member?s (students) ? just like you. NUS is widely recognised as the leading educational pressure group representing students throughout the UK. We talk weekly to the government on behalf of students, we talk daily to the media on behalf of students, and we talk hourly to a wide range of national bodies and organisations such as Universities UK on behalf of students. We are the recognised national voice of students across the UK, and right now, not only are Imperial not part of that national voice, the concerns and views of Imperial Students are not considered. This is your chance to change that!
So, you might ask, what is NUS? NUS is a national membership organization for UK students? union and has around 750 constituent members - virtually every college and university in the UK - through which we represent over 5 millions students. We have such a wide membership because unions across the majority of universities and colleges realise that key decision makers pay attention to NUS. Students believe in a national voice that can campaign on their behalf and make their voice heard by those in government and amongst society in general.
NUS campaigns and represents on all issues that affect students as students and students as members of society, but we also do much much more. I would recommend that those of you who want to know more look at our two websites http://www.officeronline.co.uk and http://www.nusonline.co.uk. For those whowant the highlights, here they are:
- We carry our campaign work on a variety of student issues including fairer funding systems, better student housing and healthcare.
- We have active liberations campaign teams: LGBT, Black Students?, Womens and Students? with Disabilities.
- We provide official representation to government and national bodies including Parliamentary lobbying.
- NUS representatives sit on governmental committees and provide evidence which is used to shape policies and inform legislation.
- We produce research on student issues for publication, to raise public awareness of issues affecting students today
We strengthen local union activity
- We have a Development Projects Unit, allowing your student activities to benefit from key skills training, to network and share ideas through Stadia and even train students to train clubs and society officers, course reps and council reps though the National Student Learning Programme.
- We provide research and information, support and advice for your union officers on virtually any area of education and student life, from housing to franchise courses, student funding to women's issues. There are also special projects on accommodation costs and student health.
We Make Commercial Sense
- We Produce the NUS Extra card, which gives students access to a range of high street discounts from clothing to music and computers. The Extra card will bring in an additional £1,000,000 to students? unions across the country, with 40 per cent of the profits of the Extra card being channelled directly back into local students unions to be spent as each local union deems best.
The list goes on?. but I?ll leave it there. I believe that students at Imperial College will benefit enormously from joining with hundreds of other unions to campaign for those things that affect us all. As we set up and develop the London Student Assembly to ensure the voice of London learners is articulated directly to the GLA, as we continue to meet with TfL to enhance and sharpen the discount package for London students and as we continue to lobby locally and nationally on behalf of students, I?d be delighted to be able to speak out for you too. Not only that, but as NUS President I know more than anyone, that my organisation can never reach its full potential until we can truly claim to speak for every student, in every college and university. I hope you will use your vote in this referendum to bring that vision closer to reality.