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Spotlight: NUS National Treasurer

Nov 09 2002 23:48
Rob Park
Dervish Mertcan, NUS National Treasurer was grilled by students at Queen Mary, University of London, and left some of them a little disillusioned.
Is it the beginning of the end of the NUS in London?

Thursday evening saw an hour of Question Time style views, comments and questions to and from Dervish Mertcan, the National Treasurer of the National Union of Students. The session was co-hosted by Queen Mary?s Debating Society and the Union?s Executive Committee.

The first question to Mr Mertcan regarded the arrangements and size of affiliation fees, which in Queen Mary?s case is about £40,000 per year. Karim Nanji, President of QMSU and Brenda Hatton, Union General Manager debated hotly with Mr Mertcan and demanded to know why some Unions get away with paying peppercorn fees and why there are back-handed deals with some Unions, such as King?s College and LSE. Mr Mertcan explained that the NUS had to rely on ?good faith from Unions about declaring their block grant and students numbers?. The National Treasurer also stated that this was the procedure as laid out in the NUS Constitution. Ms Hatton derided that stance pointing out that block grants and student numbers are matters of public record and could be obtained easily from the parent institution. She also made Mr Mertcan aware that 16 letter had been sent by the President of Royal Holloway Students? Union to the NUS President last year asking for an explanation of similar points of concern. There had been no reply.

To a question from the floor which asked if the NUS would rework Queen Mary?s affiliation fees if the students? union threatened to disaffiliate, Mr Mertcan said that ?it would depend on how likely a disaffiliation was??. Mr Mertcan continued to blame ?lying? students? unions for not declaring the correct grant and numbers to the NUS. However, when pressed about whether he would be asking unions to pay the correct rates, Mr Mertcan said that that would be a matter for the Annual Conference of NUS and he did not expect ?turkeys to vote for Christmas!?. Ms Hatton demanded to know why the Conference needed to be involved as it seemed to just require NUS staff and Mr Mertcan to apply the rules and get numbers and figures from parent institutions ?like BUSA do?.

The topic of mergers and fees was raised, to which Mr Mertcan suggested that he did not support the NUS helping Imperial College Union directly with fees or merger, as they are not members of the NUS. He did however concede that there was a need to get the Imperial and UCL student bodies working close together on this, and this is where the NUS?s role is. He stated that Imperial would ?probably never join the national union??.

To the question ?Is 50% of 18-24 year olds in higher education by 2010 achievable and is the proposed introduction of so-called top-up fees a stealth tax and dole queue fix??, Mr Mertcan suggested that the government may not introduce fees at the widely publicised level of circa £10,000, but would gradually raise the cap, so that next year it could be £2,500 and the year after £3,500 and so on, each time cynically saying that ?at least it is not full fees!?. He also replied saying that the government?s target of 50% in HE was ?pulled out of thin air?.

After a few more questions relating to political platforms, the NUS branding and purpose, NUS Services Limited, and accessibility of the NUS, the meeting was wound up. At least half of the room felt that the NUS is in dire need of reform and it was time for Queen Mary to consider its membership of it. Queen Mary Students? Union has withheld its affiliation fee to the NUS for this year, pending certain explanation from the NUS. Three other UL Colleges (UCL, Royal Holloway and LSE) are rumoured to be holding NUS disaffiliation votes over the next year.

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Discussion about “Spotlight: NUS National Treasurer”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
1. Seb   
Nov 10 2002 17:30

The NUS need to pull their act together.

Imperial is unlikely to ever join the NUS because it is seen as such a half baked organisation. As for facilitating talks between UCL and IC, I don't think we really need them to do that. This is what ULU is for, though I suppose ULU is more worried about securing it's own future than acurately representing it's ICU constituent, passing policy to oppose the merger before either UCLU or ICU hold their referendum.

Frankly, the disafillated universities ought to band together and see if we can build a functioning body to represent us collectively.

Nov 10 2002 17:35

My guess is that the formation of such a body would hasten the NUS disaffiliation process across the country.

However, it's been talked about since at least Hellard's day, so I'll believe it when I see it.

3. aqeel   
Nov 11 2002 00:42

It's certainly true that LSE and UCL are planning referenda for next term - the LSE ed-weldare sabb told me herself - in fact I think they are planning to hold them at the same time. I have to say the potential double blow to the NUS fills me with glee.

Nov 11 2002 08:02

When's the date? Any news?

Nov 11 2002 09:30

He stated that Imperial would ?probably never join the national union??.

Finally NUS get the message.

Is there any chance that we could form an alternative to the NUS? It would be nice to have something that offered discounts etc., helped the individual universities and yet didn't cost ?40+k p.a., wasn't a springboard for future Education Secretaries and didn't waste money.

Nov 11 2002 10:37

Also, are Wye still members of NUS? - if not why are they still listed on the NUS's website (maybe this explains their funding problems).

7. aqeel   
Nov 11 2002 12:58


No news of a date yet. The plans haven't been announced or presented at UGM yet.

8. seb   
Nov 11 2002 16:02

Any NUS replacement needs to enshrine in their constiution that they are apolitical with respect to political parties.

Nov 11 2002 16:09

Agreed. The pseudopolitics of the NUS is one of its biggest problems.

I also think that a new NUS (A Nu-NUS? [Insert teletubbies joke here]) would have to look carefully at what it actually wanted to do in order to ensure that there are no affiliation fees. As soon as they are introduced, we would be on a slippery slope to the current huge waste of cash.

What exactly do the NUS spend all that money on anyway?

10. eddie   
Nov 11 2002 16:19

Paying their staff to go to every disaffiliation/affiliation referendum?

but they look funny stood there in the rain, and we needed some people to help the Yes campaign....... ;-)

11. Seb   
Nov 11 2002 16:43

Oh. I thought they were helping the no campaign by demonstrating what a waste the NUS made of our cash.

Nov 12 2002 10:56

At Southampton the affiliation fee for 2003 is ?83,700.40!!! We voted no at the AGM so the NUS are trying to push a referendum.

Check out this website

Nov 12 2002 16:15

I totally agree with Seb. In their last meeting the NUS had 16 motions tabled, including one emergency one concerning the IC/UCL merger.

They had two hours to debate these motions. They wasted 22 minutes waiting for people to turn up and then got stuck into the 3 motions concerning War with Iraq. Another great motion was "Students and the Labour movement". To its credit it did have 3 motions concerning eduction funding. However it seems that the NUS waste far too much time debating policies which are only of concern to a minority of students, which are already debated in many other forums.

Any NUS alternative must be apolitical and must concentrate on improving student's lives and helping the unions rather than pretending to be politicians. Even one of it's classic selling points, the NUS discount scheme, is proving troublesome this year.

Jan 25 2003 12:57

How about Another National Union of Students? Seriously I think that it either needs to be like the aldwych group (a talking shop for sabbs) or it will need affiliation fees. Part of the problem is the politics and the way fees are calculated, say ?10k from 20 institutions, enough for a small head office to co-ordinate campaigns and act as a press office? The Aldwych group is already larger than the Russell group that it represents so there is no reason it couldn't be further expanded.

Feb 16 2003 19:38

I am chuffed this article is cited at

May 14 2003 04:56

Looks like a referendum is on the cards here for next year (just when I'm going into retirement! Well, I'll be the Union Chair(man), so i've got to be oh so impartial).

It has been mooted that there is the possibility of establishing a "London Forum" to replace NUS London and also to widen outside of ULU.

So there you go. They said that back in 1995 too, so my breath is still being held!

May 14 2003 05:36

Why do you even need a replacement for NUS London? What on earth has it ever done that is if any use?

May 14 2003 05:49

Surely all London sabbs need somewhere to go and drink?

Or shag?

I'll stop there :P

Jul 09 2005 12:56

je sui marocan 33 ans

Closed This discussion is closed.

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See Also

  1. Merger: Kings & Queens?
    09 Nov 02 | News
  2. NUS Offline
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  3. Students fail to curb war motion
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