Image Credit: NUS
York students have voted to remain affiliated with the National Union of Students (NUS) for another three years in a campus-wide referendum, with the question: ‘Should YUSU remain affiliated to the NUS?’
Nouse can reveal that the ‘Yes’ side has secured victory with 611 votes, 60.1 per cent of the vote, versus the ‘No’ side with 364 votes, 35.8 per cent of the vote. There were 42 abstentions, 4.1 per cent of the vote. The total number of votes was 1017. This means that the referendum passed quorum by 43 votes, set at 974, which was five per cent of Union members.
The victory for the ‘Yes’ campaign this year is greater than the victory secured by the same side last time the question was put to students. In the revious NUS referendum held in 2016, 53 per cent of students voted to remain affiliated compared to 45 per cent who voted to disaffiliate, with two per cent of students abstaining.
The ‘Yes’ campaign said to Nouse of their victory: “We are pleased that York students have voted to remain in the NUS. At a time when students are under at- tack from fees and debt, it is only by working together with other students that we can fight to make our universities more inclusive and accessible.
“This is also a vote to keep our own Union strong - the NUS put an additional £49 000 in YUSU’s pocket last year as well as amplifying the voices of those who our University so often lets down. We can now look forward to pressing for a fairer deal for all students as an important part of the national student movement.”
The ‘No’ side also commented on the result, saying: “We are obviously disappointed with the result, and we continue to believe that our membership of the NUS fails to benefit students. The NUS continues to be run in an undemocratic manner that fails to benefit the vast majority of students, including those who identify with groups in need of improved liberation networks. The NUS does not, and never has had, a monopoly on liberation.
“While we would like to place on record our thanks both to the ‘Yes’ side and especially the Deputy Returning Officer for ensuring there was a referendum to be fought, we nevertheless leave this referendum with not insignificant concerns about the tone of this campaign ...
“We are also somewhat concerned that quorum seems only just to have been met, and that the timing, in Week Eight of the Summer Term, and lack of publicity have acted as barriers to student participation. Consideration should be given to the timing of future referendums so as to maximise student participation. We hope to work positively with YUSU to ensure that future referendums are as fair and accessible as possible.”
YUSU is mandated to review its affiliation with the NUS every three years in accordance with Union policy. This means YUSU will remain affiliated with the NUS until at least 2022.
Reacting to the result of the vote, Union President James Durcan told Nouse: “University of York students have voted ‘Yes’ to remaining affiliated to the NUS. While the referendum result does set a direction of travel, it doesn’t end our conversation about YUSU’s relationship with the NUS.
“The value of collective working was a clear theme in the referendum debate and the vote is a testament to York students’ commitment to being a part of the national movement. I hope YUSU will work with the NUS to help students make the most of membership and take advantage of the unique opportunity presented by the NUS’ change programme to help influence and shape the future direction of the organisation.
“For me, these numbers are disappointing and not the overwhelming endorsement I would have liked to see. The result is a clear reminder that the organisation still has more to do in terms of communicating its representative role, reminding students of the benefits it offers and most importantly engaging a wider audience. “I’d like to thank every student for their vote and both campaign teams for getting involved with this important debate.”
Despite the policy mandate to review Union affiliation with the NUS, the referendum was not certain to occur. In April, Nouse reported that the vote might be cancelled pending a consultation with students. The consultation demonstrated a student desire to have the vote, leading to the referendum.
YUSU will continue to elect NUS delegates to send to the NUS national conference and have involvement with regional events, as well as work cooperatively with the NUS for training and services provision. This comes as a result of a membership fee of over £40 000 per year.
This year, the NUS passed reforms to remain financially viable after it was revealed in November that the organisation was running a deficit of £3 million. The reforms involved cutting staff, including elected officers from 20 to 12, and selling its London HQ, as well as the adoption of a new loan. As a continuing member of the Students’ Union, York will continue to play a role in this reform process.