Today marks a year since Imperial's NUS referendum concluded, with 30% of the student body voting narrowly to join the national union. Both sides called for reform, with the 'Yes' campaign looking for reform from within, while the 'No' campaign wanted to stay away until the NUS sorted itself out.
At Imperial's first NUS conference for thirty years in March, delegates voted for a "no-holds-barred" governance review to look at reforming the NUS. The call for a review received overwhelming support, despite opposition from the minority extreme left-wing groups prevalent in the organisation.
The NUS governance review reported back last month after a summer consultation period, recommending a wide range of changes in an attempt to reduce costs and improve the way NUS works. On the 4th December a group from Imperial will head to Leicester to vote on the proposals, with ICU being broadly in favour, however with a few changes being suggested.
The governance review states explicitly that the NUS is a confederation of students' unions, not actually a union of students. This sets the tone for the rest of the review, placing more control into the hands of sabbatical officers and removing power from the vocal - but ultimately unrepresentative - extreme left groups such as Respect. The annual conference is to be replaced by a "Congress", receiving and rubber-stamping decisions made by smaller zone-based conferences. The aim is to fill the smaller conferences with people who are interested the five areas:
- Further Education
- Higher Education
- Wider Society (?Society and Citizenship?)
- Union Development
The aim of this split is to take contentious issues, such as taking a stance on international wars, out of the main annual gathering (currently annual conference), making more efficient use of time.
Concerns have been raised - mainly by the left, but also by others - that the governance review will give Labour Students or "Organised Independents" a permanent control over the NUS, while "destroying" democracy.
ICU President Stephen Brown is welcoming the reforms, having said in stoic tv's Ask the President:
"The NUS is not the most important issue facing this union. It's a bit of a comedy sideshow. In essence its good entertainment to go along to some of the meetings, because obviously you do get some sort of weird and wacky unhinged individuals attending their conferences. Obviously at the minute they're doing their governance review, so hopefully this time next year their organisation will have moved on from the 1970s into the 21st century so it'll be less open to the sort of ridicule I heaped upon it this time last year."