New Year, New Troubles for “National” “Union” of “Students”

by on 11 February, 2015


University of Western Australia Student Rebecca Lawrence writes a follow up to “’National’ Union of Students: A National Disgrace”.

After the National Union of Students (NUS) National Conference in December 2014, I wrote about the budget and unity issues faced by the unrepresentative and militant organisation. Two months later, before university students have even returned to class, all evidence points to the fact that the union’s position has only grown more desperate.

Firstly, nothing has been done to address the gaping $366,360 deficit that the NUS has managed to rack up in the last three years (numbers revealed in a leaked audit) – in fact, the NUS is facing a further reduction in funding as student unions across the country negotiate their 2015 budgets. Most recently, the University of Melbourne Student Union cut their budgetary allowance for NUS affiliation fees from $106,000 to $55,000 and added requirements for the Union to become more focused on issues immediately relevant to students – specifically, the NUS must demonstrate “what steps it will take to support Indigenous, environment, international and disabled students”.

The NUS has reportedly continued to splash money on their own “professional development” and “campaign skills” since the National Conference, despite the dire state of their finances. After attending the NUS President’s Summit in January, Queensland University of Technology Student Union President Jack McGuire says “The event is an uninformative waste of students’ money and is simply being used as a junket for National NUS Office Bearers and uninformed campus Presidents to have a good time. Notwithstanding the misappropriation of student money and hefty registration fee, NUS is still unable to break even financially on this event”. He added that he was disappointed in the standard of the conference, and asserted that his student union would “definitely not be paying the NUS affiliation fee in 2015”.

Secondly, it is increasingly evident to students and the wider political community that the NUS can no longer pretend to be non-partisan or independent whatsoever. Claire Chandler, former President of the Tasmanian NUS branch, says “Since the Abbott government was elected in 2013, NUS has turned from being anti-cuts and relatively left wing to being specifically anti-Liberal. Their agenda is clear – to return a Federal Labor government to power as soon as possible”.

In order to run from their own tainted reputation, the NUS has rebranded many of their campaigns by removing the “National Union of Students” tagline and logo while still running the campaigns from NUS offices, with NUS funding. Examples of this include the “CommunityRun” petition, which is promoted through the NUS Facebook page but does not include NUS branding on the actual petition page, and the organisation “A Brighter Future”, whose “spokespeople” include many of the NUS National Office Bearers.

Unarguably, the NUS is no longer “national”- only 20 of Australia’s 39 campuses affiliated in 2014. It is no longer “united”, as even the remaining affiliate bodies are demanding that the NUS changes its ways. It can no longer claim to represent the claims of “students”, as it is now widely recognized as no more than a front for the ALP.

The Union’s continued incompetence, combined with the increasing strength of competing national organisations, begs the question of how much longer the “National” “Union” of “Students” can continue before it follows the Australian Union of Students’ dissolution into bankruptcy and total irrelevance.

Rebecca Lawrence is a second year where she was a 2014 UWA Student Guild Councillor and is in her second term as an NUS Delegate. Rebecca also holds the National Publications portfolio for the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation. She is currently undertaking an internship at the Lithuanian Free Market Institute as part of the Mannkal Foundation’s 2015 Scholarship Program.


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