The University of Lincoln Students’ Union has become the first to break away from the National Union of Students following the election of Malia Bouattia (pictured) as national president.
ULSU president Hayley Jayne Wilkinson said that she “no longer felt confident that the NUS represented the views of our students” in the wake of a referendum in which 881 of the 1,734 voters backed disaffiliation, and 804 supported continued membership.
Ms Bouattia’s victory over serving president Megan Dunn represented a significant step to the left for the NUS, and there are campaigns to disaffiliate under way at a number of other institutions, with students at Newcastle University and the University of Exeter due to vote in referendums this week.
Ms Bouattia faced allegations of anti-Semitism during her election campaign – something that she vehemently denied – and her support for controversial advocacy group Cage has also drawn criticism.
Following the referendum, the ULSU will disaffiliate from the NUS on 31 December.
“For ULSU, our priority is our members and what they tell us matters to them in today’s rapidly changing higher education environment,” Ms Wilkinson said. “Put simply, this debate has been about what students want from the organisation that represents them nationally, and for some time, we have felt that the focus of debate within the NUS has been far removed from the issues that our students tell us are important to them every day on campus.”
Ms Dunn said that she was “disappointed” by the ULSU decision, particularly as it was based on such a narrow victory margin in a referendum that attracted the participation of 13 per cent of Lincoln students.
She said that while the ULSU would save £31,831 in affiliation fees, it would lose £153,024 with no NUS funds being reinvested in the union, prices going up on campus as a result of the loss of shared purchasing, and students losing their NUS Extra cards.
“Our door will always be open to Lincoln students’ union should students wish to affiliate again,” Ms Dunn said. “Now, more than ever, students need and deserve a strong, united movement to ensure we continue to work to get the best deal for students.”