NUS debates reform

March 5, 1999

Scottish and Welsh students may have more power devolved to them under plans to reform the National Union of Students.

Reform will be one of the main motions being discussed at the union's annual conference in ten days' time, along with lifelong learning, student funding and health and accommodation.

Changes being considered include giving more authority to the NUS's national council, which involves regional representatives, and developing the union's website and other ways of reaching out to more students.

NUS president Andrew Pakes said he preferred the idea of "modernisation" to reform.

He claimed to have made the NUSmore democratic in his first presidential year already.

"In past years, we have had a continuous battle over whether there should be a grant or a loan and have let the government get away with murder," he said. "This year the focus has been on hardship, and individual unions can decide whether it should be a grant or a loan that solves this."

But the NUS has come under fire from some unions for being too weak in fighting tuition fees and too expensive for members. UMIST decided to disaffiliate last year and campaigns have also been hard fought at Birmingham and Stirling, although both decided by a large majority to stay with the NUS.

Nick Mouton, communications officer at Newcastle University, which will hold a referendum later this month on whether to disaffiliate, said: "It is becoming quite prominent that a lot of people are thinking about disaffiliation. It seems the NUS is not doing much about campaigns on grants not fees."

Newcastle was holding a referendum because it is eight years since it last consulted students on affiliation and because fees to the NUS will increase from Pounds 40,000 to Pounds 60,000 from 2000, he said.

"We also feel stuck up north and not represented by an NUS predominantly in London," Mr Mouton added.

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