Imperial College Union will apply to join the NUS, after the referendum revealed 53.26% of 4,007 voters were in favour. The national conference in the spring will consider the Union's application and Imperial should join at that point. Turnout in the referendum was the highest in memory, being 30.24%.
The 'No' vote was leading by several hundred votes until 6pm Wednesday, it then switched over in the last day of voting.
Leader of the 'Yes' campaign Alex Guite told Live!:
"This is an awesome result for Imperial students. It's right that as we move into our centenary year that we're back where we belong: leaders not followers in the national student movement. We ran a clean and positive campaign, over the last two weeks we've put up hundreds of posters and spoken to thousands of students. Thanks to all those who voted yes to discounts and yes to a stronger Imperial College Union. Thanks also to those students who campaigned tirelessly for the yes campaign and thanks also to the no campaign for making it an entertaining referendum."
James Fok, leader of the 'No' campaign responded:
"I firmly believe that this is not the right decision for us, and that the money could be better spent elsewhere. Since the formation of the NUS, Imperial and its students have never had a good lasting relationship. However, our students have spoken, so our sabbatical officers must work hard to get value for money from the NUS and push for the reform they have agreed it needs."
ICU President John Collins said he was "delighted [with] what has become the largest union democratic exercise ever to take place at Imperial". Collins continued: "I would like to thank both Alex Guite and James Fok for organising brilliant campaigns, Live! and Felix for co-ordinating a balanced debate and I would like to commend Jon Matthews, the Returning Officer, for keeping a lid on what has been an explosive and heated week of banter."
The union must now decide where the £35k affiliation fee will come from - no extra money is available to the union this year. A similar situation will arise next year, with around £16k to be made up, followed by £8k the year after. Income from NUS Extra is expected to raise around £8k of this money.