NUS abandons less well off

April 5, 1996

I am a politically independent student. Having attended the NUS conference last week I felt obliged to write in response to the disturbing policy of student funding which was passed.

Your supplement does not go far in support of the "free education" debate and has little in the way of true representation of the students of Britain. This was proved by the limited report on one side of the issues before the conference (THES, March 22) and the report on the front page (THES, March 29). Having said that, Laurie Taylor seems to be able to sum up the situation faced by individual students (THES March 29).

The NUS conference is not a forum where student delegates discuss issues in an atmosphere free from intimidation from political factions. The conference is dominated by one political faction who have organised methods of "persuading" delegates on voting. Delegates are intimidated simply by looks from the National Executive Committee. For the first-time delegates it smacks not only of conspiracy, but leads to a feeling of deep despondency. The interests of students from less affluent backgrounds are not represented by the NEC which, in a time of mass education, is absolutely imperative.

Those few who are at conference as representatives of their colleges' students as independents are accused of being Trots. Most find this deeply offensive although some say, "if ensuring that students do not have to pay for their education means that I am a Trot, then yes, I am".

Many first-time delegates who were there to represent their students' views departed disillusioned and angry at the way the conference was conducted. Only those who wish to fight the prevailing views in the NUS should return next year to continue to support those arguments which are fundamentally right in the sense that education cannot and should not be paid for by those who can least afford it, but by those who can.

EMMA COOPER Education officer, University of the West of England Students' Union

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