Yeah I know it?s me again. After the debate you would think I would be hiding somewhere in a hole. Unfortunately I don?t have personal access to as many sabbs as the NO campaigners, and considering the perfect timing of this referendum, we?ve found most Imperial students are revising, making it a little difficult getting volunteers...
Anyway, back to the topic at hand, common NUS myths.
1. Students' unions can work together on common issues, they don't need NUS
Well actually that?s not a myth, it is true! Individual students' unions can and do work effectively together on a lot of issues, but the vital question is whether this is true for national issues such as next year?s HE review. Although there are problems with NUS, it remains a hugely important organisation for all students. By being in NUS, we can actually shape and improve the way it functions. Just as NUS reformed its higher education policy at this year's annual conference with the support of ICU, it will seek to reform its governance structures in the next year with an overwhelming mandate established to do so. Imperial must be there with the majority of student officers to champion and deliver the change that is required, for the benefit of all students.
2. NUS is too different from Imperial to be able to represent us
NUS is very different to Imperial. 70% of the membership is made up of FE students, and delegates tend to come from an arts background. It has also been claimed that Imperial students are all tories (though this has never been proved), in contrast to the NUS? lefty agenda. But we are still all students! We all want good qualifications and facilities at an affordable price, and the most effective way of achieving this is through a strong national body. By staying in NUS, we will continue to ensure that national policies are in agreement with ours, and build alliances with other unions. By doing so, we will ensure that NUS is a balanced organisation to be reckoned with. And even if there are any policies that we do not agree with, ICU has the right not to enforce them, just as any other union does.
3. NUS wants to give our money to sub-standard universities
I finally read up on the National Bursary Scheme. Bursaries are non-repayable grants given to students from disadvantaged backgrounds and they're paid for out of our top up fees. However last year, many universities failed to allocate this money (£19,000,000 in fact) because the current system is overly complicated and innacessible. Surely a national, regulated bursary scheme would be a better solution? Imperial allocates more than the usual amount in bursaries, so there are fears a national scheme would affect this. But should we take such a short-sighted view? Scholarships for merit are unfair because they often benefit people who had access to good schools, rather than the most able. In addition a strong economy needs a skilled workforce in a variety of domains; if that means courses in golf-management, so be it, but at least fund them properly so they are more than just Mickey-mouse courses.
4. The affiliation fee is a rip off
ICU receives an annual £1.25m from Imperial College. This figure does not include money from other sources, such as bars, shops and rented premises. I asked the sabbaticals about ICU's turnover but I am still awaiting for an answer. According to John Collins, last year's President, ICU spent £15m over the last two years, including more than £3 million on the Beit Building alone. This makes the comparatively modest NUS affiliation fee (approximately £40,000) affordable in the context of the multi-million pound expenditure of ICU. Students attending other universities do not have to choose between a well-resourced students' union and NUS affiliation, and there is no reason why we at ICU should be forced to either.
5. The NUS is doomed
Well, no. NUS is in a better financial state than it has ever been. Last year it slashed its overdraft from £1m to £0.3m, and next year is on course to break even. Meanwhile, more than 65 per cent of delegates at NUS national conference voted, in agreement and with the crucial support of ICU's delegates to reform the democratic and participatory structures of the national union. The majority of NUS delegates agree with ICU, and the coming year is vital to ensuring that those arguments for reform are made a reality in the NUS structures.
Last year there was a record breaking turnout for the referendum when ICU decided to affiliate to NUS. We should not let this be overturned on the whim of a few individuals on Council who are trying to fulfil personal agendas rather than represent the best interests of students. We should not allow this vital year for NUS reform and the impending Government reviewing of fees and funding to take place without ICU's involvement.