Launched a few weeks ago with around 130,000 cards already sold to students, the new NUS Extra card appears to be a huge success. Furthermore it boasts "exclusive" discounts at major highstreet retailers, in return for a £10 fee.
According to the NUS website, "NUS Extra gives you access to tonnes of great discounts" - but it's true value has come into question after the London Student discovered chains such as Topshop issue discounts to students brandishing merely a college ID. The NUS is now asking students to report companies offering discounts to non-NUS students, so action can be taken to prevent it.
As an example of non-exclusivity, Cineworld, the cinema chain with a venue close to the Evelyn Halls of residence, have a policy of accepting not only NUS cards but any student card. After being contacted by CGCU President James Fok they phoned every Cineworld cinema in non-NUS areas to double check they were complying with the policy of giving discounts to all. Other discounts from the likes of Microsoft, Ryman's are also available to all students.
A selection of companies participating in the NUS Extra scheme were contacted by Live! and CGCU, with most happy to offer discounts to all students. Amazon, one of the key "wins" of the NUS discount scheme, has explained that it intends to roll out discounts to all students at a later stage, with the NUS deal being "temporary".
If the new NUS Extra card was available to Imperial students, the benefits appear to be significantly watered down, although the current NUS Treasurer, Joe Rukin, argues that it is down to a communication problem with staff working in the the shops. The NUS is actively campaigning to stop non-NUS students getting discounts.
One of the reasons for the new card is to take money directly from students into the NUS accounts, while propping up poorer students unions at FE colleges, who receive smaller subventions. Without a clear break even point for the new scheme and a six figure debt the finances of NUS are far from appealing.