Voting opens on NUS referendum

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Illustration: Monica Burns

Voting for the National Union of Students (NUS) referendum began online yesterday and will continue until Friday 16 November.

The result will be announced on Friday at around 9pm in the Union. The referendum will only be valid if 20% of the student body votes.

In 1977, the University of St Andrews disaffiliated from the NUS and has remained so since, despite several further referenda, the most recent being in October, 2001. The University of Glasgow and the University of Dundee are also unaffiliated.

The NUS is an organisation that includes 600 student unions, encompassing around 95% of further education unions in the UK. Their mission as stated on their website is to “promote, defend, and extend the rights of students and to develop and champion strong students’ unions.”

An independent fact sheet released by the Senior Elections Team and approved by the Association Board cites the cost of membership to the NUS as free for the current academic year.

The fees would be £9,687.60 in the year 2013-2014 and from 2015-2016 onwards, the fees would be £19,367.15 per year.

Some services provided by the NUS within the affiliation fee include consultancy, training, a basic website package, and representation within the NUS. Further costs not included in the affiliation fee are summer training (£2,056) and the NUS Digital Full Package (£7,000).

One of the more widely known features of NUS membership is the student card, NUS extra. The card costs £12 per year and grants discounts at some high street and online retailers, such as ASOS, Superdrug, and Amazon. The University would receive £4.71 in revenue for each card sold.

The current campaign period follows a unanimous decision by the SRC and SSC last April to postpone the referendum, citing reasons such as limited time among other financial, constitutional, and technical issues. The student-led ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaign groups began campaigning on 9 November.

The University Debating Society is hosting a debate concerned with the referendum, with the motion of ‘This House would affiliate with the NUS’, beginning at 6pm on Thursday 15 November in Parliament Hall.

Last May, Liam Burns, President of the NUS, spoke to St Andrews about the benefits of rejoining the NUS. By “putting student unions in the driver’s seat”, Burns presented the NUS as a “consultancy” giving students a collective voice and acting as a go-between for student unions and governmental bodies.

In an interview with The Saint this week, Freddie Fforde, Association President and Head of Elections Committee, said: “All the rules were agreed and voted on by SSC and SRC. Apart from at two events, we haven’t allowed external speakers because we wouldn’t want either team to start on an unfair platform.

“This has to be a decision argued for and taken by students. The arguments should stand for themselves without relying on external resources. The NUS affiliation fact sheet was specifically designed to minimise false claims in campaigning. It will be up to the campaigners to argue the value of the figures,” he said.

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