Many universities across the UK share a membership with the NUS (national union of students), universities pay for membership to the NUS and in return are supposed to receive benefits like data research and various money-saving schemes, including the NUS extra card. The University of Essex paid over £50000 to be a member of the NUS last year, and that fee is set to rise by another £10000 from next year, however many students argue that this amount is not of value, as the university is not receiving the same benefits that other universities receive, so a referendum has been called to leave the NUS.
When speaking to Josh Gulrajani, VP Education at the University of Essex, he told me that: “We don’t receive nearly the services that we demand from the NUS for the 50000 fee that they charge us, in the last year they’ve raised our bill by another £8000, they’re disengaged with all our offices including our liberations, and they’ve provided us with absolutely zero support to our student’s union.”Jack Street, VP Services and Communications, has also said that: “being in the NUS not only does not aid my job, but it actively damages the time I can spend enacting real change at Essex. The conferences and events that they preach as aiding officers were a complete waste of time”.
The leave campaign believe that the money could be better spent elsewhere, for example giving budgets for liberation officers, who organised Black History Month for £1000 and LGBT History Month for £600, without the help of the NUS. LGBT officer Taran Baragwanath and BAME officer Leshandra Mandlate have said: “We have received absolutely nothing from NUS to help our work as liberation officers this year. But, even more than this, the conferences that Essex SU paid a lot of money to send us on were less than helpful to our work at Essex.”
The NUS recently elected a new president; Shakira Martin who has succeeded Malia Bouattia. The former president was met with criticism over anti-Semitic remarks and had campaigned for the university to remain a part of the NUS last year. Shakira Martin has said that: “my NUS will get things done”, however Josh Gulrajani said “We believe that the direction NUS has been heading in for a while mean that it is now too far gone for one individual or even a team of individuals to fix.”
The referendum needs 750 votes over the course of 2 days, students can vote at http://www.essex.su/NCS or on square 3.