Student groups across the UK join growing campaign for unions to disaffiliate from NUS

Current NUS president addresses 'whispers of disaffiliation', insisting: 'We are stronger when we work together'

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Friday 22 April 2016 15:01 BST
Hundreds of students' union reps, pictured, debated and voted on NUS motions over the 3 days
Hundreds of students' union reps, pictured, debated and voted on NUS motions over the 3 days (NUS)

Student groups from across the UK are joining the growing call for their respective unions to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students (NUS) after a controversial National Conference.

The students’ unions at Lincoln, York, Oxford, Exeter, and Manchester are facing pressure to end all ties with the national student campaigner.

The move has come after the election of new NUS National President, Malia Bouattia, divided opinion following allegations of anti-Semitism, which hit her campaign just last week.

More than 300 heads of Jewish student societies and protesters said they had taken issue with the fact that, in a 2011 article, Ms Bouattia referred to the University of Birmingham as being something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education".

Hayley Jayne, president of the University of Lincoln Students’ Union, issued a statement on Thursday saying she and three other Lincoln delegates were “very disillusioned” with the conference, and a number of motions passed.

Ms Jayne continued: “We do not feel many of the decisions taken are in the interests of our members in Lincoln.

“This has been confirmed by a number of messages and conversations I have had with our students who are concerned about the direction in which NUS seem to be heading.”

Ms Jayne added that the board of trustees confirmed a request to hold a referendum, and said: “We will be holding a referendum in due course to determine the affiliation with NUS in the future.”

In a post-election statement, however, Ms Bouattia said she was “committed to putting liberation at the heart of the student movement", and added: “Jews have faced horrendous persecution over thousands of years, and Jewish students on campuses and elsewhere continue to face anti-Semitism.

“Our movement knows this, and will stand alongside them.”

Politicians have also criticised delegates for speaking out against a motion to commemorate the Holocaust, with John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, announcing plans to convene a rally in Parliament against racism within NUS with former presidents of the Union.

According to York Vision, about 30 students have issued an open letter saying: “Continued affiliation with the NUS sends a message to Jews on campus that they are not wanted", while Cherwell reports the majority of Oxford NUS delegates have “come out officially on the side of disaffiliation".

Manchester Conservative Future also announced on social media: “It was decided...that our society will support and campaign for Manchester students’ union to disaffiliate from the NUS,” while Exeter confirmed a vote will take place from 2 May.

The news has come just a day after a group of students at the University of Cambridge launched a campaign to pressure their students’ union to break away from being associated with the NUS.

The NUS has directed The Independent to outgoing NUS National President Megan Dunn’s closing remarks at the conference in Brighton.

She said: “To anybody here or back on campus that is whispering of disaffiliation from NUS because of this conference, know this: we are stronger when we work together.

“When students’ unions are under attack, we are better off united than we are standing on our own, believing we can defend ourselves by standing apart.

“So don’t walk away. Get organised, and stand up for your beliefs. Fight for what you believe in because, when you do, win or lose, we are stronger together.”

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