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Student democracy under attack
The National Union of Students (NUS) extraordinary conference in Wolverhampton on 12 November voted through a raft of attacks on union democracy contained in the NUS governance review.
Matt Dobson, Socialist Students national organiser
Undemocratic methods ensured that the review passed by a majority of 614 votes in favour to 142 against. The pro-New Labour NUS leadership are now likely to call another extraordinary conference, as to be ratified the review needs to be passed through two consecutive conferences.
If these reforms go through, the NUS leadership will be even further insulated from ordinary students who, angry about fees and education cuts, want action. Previous issues of The Socialist have described the governance review, see http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/3571 for details.
The NUS leadership have made the incredible claim that this is the result of democratic consultation and debate with the NUS membership. But this conference was an undemocratic sham from beginning to end. The final version of the new proposed core constitution was not available until after the conference was called!
By pushing this process through so quickly, student unions had no time to discuss proposals with students, to put together amendments or to elect delegates to the conference. The result is that it was very difficult to mobilise opposition. Right-wing unions could appoint their delegates, bypass their membership and rubber stamp anything the NUS leadership gives them.
On the basis of our campaigning record, and despite these obstacles, Socialist Students had delegates from Kent, Sussex, Bangor, Kings College London, Cambridge and University of the West of England. Socialist Students activist and Sussex student union finance officer Lee Vernon used an amendment proposal from his union to argue against the review.
In reality, the NUS leadership is completely opposed to campaigning for students' rights. NUS president Wes Streeting has made it clear that he would like the governance review to go through before the government considers the upper limit on top-up university fees in 2009, which will most likely result in increases.
Socialist Students puts forward an alternative: a student movement that bases itself on action and mobilisations of students that genuinely provide opportunities for students to get involved democratically. See www.socialiststudents.org.uk for more information.
In The Socialist 19 November 2008:
No Job Cuts
Post office closures
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis