Having had many discussions with delegates from other universities, it is clear that this NUS conference was somewhat revolutionary. It was a conference described by the ?loony left? as ?the most right wing conference ever?, where realism replaced unworkable dreams and reforms were pushed through. Imperial was characterised, along with Kings, Bristol and Sheffield as "right wing" by the fringe left, with even our card-carrying Labour Party member Alex Guite described as a "right wing insurgent".
The conference appeared to be "Respect vs the rest" at times, particularly on the second day, with old hands coming away stunned at the political shift. If anything, Respect may be partly responsible for this shift, as people grew increasingly tired of their attempts to keep the status quo in the current financially unviable NUS with amendments and stalling tactics.
In terms of what the conference really achieved, it is sometimes hard to tell. A large number of motions were passed, including our amendment calling for international medical students to be permitted to complete their training. Many of these were unopposed showing the common ground, but it is the divisions and hard decisions which are the real story of the conference.
The NUS, looking to reform itself but facing opposition from some factions, spent an immense amount of time throwing out amendments seeking to restrict the scope of a review, meaning many motions, including our amendment against the oppression of canoeists, were not heard as time ran out. The divisive motions had long debates, but finally went ICU?s way:
- The NUS is calling for a better, smarter education campaign for fees. All attempts to force a costly national demonstration every year were defeated, with a focus on intelligent lobbying and putting a rational case to the government. ICU delegate Edmund Hunt?s speech summed it up nicely: we are students, so we should show that our education is worthwhile, that we can put forward a rational, logical, intelligent argument for our viewpoint.
- A wide-ranging governance review is to be carried out, with a view to reforming the structures of the NUS to increase efficiency. No areas are ruled out of the review.
Other motions of particular note include:
- NUS affiliation fees are to reduce as a result of the sale of shares in Endsleigh Insurance to Zurich.
- The NUS will seek better support and representation for medical students, including lobbying against visa changes so current international students can complete their training in the UK.
- NUS is now forbidden from moving discounts currently available for free onto NUS Extra. The same motion mandated it to provide equal prominence to free discounts as to Extra discounts in advertising.
All in all, the winds of change were in the air and Imperial's presence did not go un-noticed. Conference is infuriating, as the format allows all sides of a debate to waste time and block progress. This time at least, ICU got a lot of what we wanted from it.
Remember to check the "conference blog" for more details.