First word that comes to your mind when you think NUS, go! Usually, the go-to-answer for any student is “NUS = discount Card”. While they do offer a card to wield the elusive student discount, The National Union of Students, or NUS for short, is a democratic confederation that strives to represent the voice of 7 million students.
So what does the NUS do?
How is it organised?
How are students represented, and how diverse is this representation?
This year, our National General Secretary attended the annual NUS National Conference, to answer some of these questions. This was the first time in ten years NHSF (UK) would attend the renowned NUS conference. The conference serves 3 key purposes:
- The NUS Board (President and Vice-Presidents) and the National Executive Council are elected
- Key projects to be undertaken over the year are presented
- Motions, that serve as solutions to important current student issues, are submitted by students and debated; with motions that pass required to be implemented as part of the NUS policy for the next 3 years
The 3-day conference saw 650 students from campuses across the country descend to the city of Glasgow.
One such challenge that was discussed at the conference was the reform of the organisation, due to going through a period of financial instability. The reform was officially accepted at the Conference and will commence in full effect from 2021. This means that governance of the NUS, as well as its engagement with Student Unions will be different to what it currently is today.
Over the 3 days, I met an incredibly diverse group of students, who were advocating for a number of key issues. These ranged from ‘tution fee reduction’ to ‘LGBTQ rights’ on their campuses. A few key issues were trending throughout the conference; with “Islamophobia” and “Anti-semitism” being two faith-specific issues that were frequently highlighted. As one of the very few Hindus present at the conference, it was also interesting to learn about how other students understand and perceive the Hindu ‘tradition’.
I had the opportunity to submit a motion titled “Equal access to faith and wellbeing resources for students from Non-Abrahamic traditions”. The most well-known Abrahamic faiths are Christianity, Judaism and Islam. This motion stems from the fact that less than 50% of all universities currently catering for multi-faith spaces, and less than 20% have chaplains representing students of Non-Abrahamic traditions. As NHSF (UK), it is our duty to ensure that our student needs are represented and catered for, and this motion does this by calling for the NUS to action for the provision of multi-faith/meditation spaces and Hindu-Chaplains at all universities.
This motion, the first of its kind at NUS, was passed with overwhelming majority at the conference. This means that over the next couple of years, NUS will dedicate efforts to work with student unions to reduce the current disparity.
The conference has served as both an eye-opening experience and a great learning opportunity. A big take-home message is the importance for us as Hindu Students to start understanding and engaging with our SUs, so that we can cultivate these key relationships as we become a representing voice for Hindu students.
1. Here I am, with a number of notable SU officers representing many universities as the conference drew to a close.
2. A view inside the auditorium – with delegates voting for a motion they feel strongly about by raising their hand.
3. I presented a motion for Equal access to faith and wellbeing resources for students from non-abrahamic traditions, on behalf of Kings College London and NHSF (UK), which passed by a large majority!.