Oxford University Student Union will leave the NUS, which represents more than 600 students’ unions, after students voted in favour of non-affiliation by 1,780 votes to 1,652 – a margin of just 128 votes.
The result of the referendum, in which 15.1 per cent of students voted, was announced on 21 May.
Oxford’s union, which has produced three NUS presidents in its history, joins the student unions at the universities of St Andrew’s and Southampton, and Imperial College London, among others, in being non-affiliated with the National Union of Students.
It is the latest difficulty for the NUS, which announced on 16 May that its chief executive Ben Kernighan had left the organisation after less than a year in charge.
The Oxford disaffiliation campaign was led by student Jack Matthews, who said he was “delighted that Oxford has had the courage to stand up against the NUS and demand change”.
Mr Matthews, a former delegate at the NUS national conference, has previously accused the organisation of bullying on account of his conservative political views.
In a blog, he has described his discomfort about the “the endless speeches […] about ‘Tory scumbags’” and the “offensive” speeches made about the death of Margaret Thatcher during last year’s conference.
Mr Matthews says that “the vitriol was so great I felt no longer able to remain on conference floor, and left the building - I was effectively hounded out”.
Meanwhile, OUSU president Tom Rutland said he was “disappointed by the result”, but hoped the union would re-affiliate soon.
“I’m concerned about the impact it will have on OUSU and Oxford students,” he said.
“My time at OUSU has shown me that NUS membership is a real lifeline both for our elected officers and our student body.”
An NUS spokeswoman said it “respects the decision taken this week in the referendum”, but would “welcome the union back should it wish to re-affiliate in the future”.
She said the NUS would make the case for the considerable benefits affiliation brings to students.
“Collectively, students through their students’ unions invest in a movement which campaigns to defend, extend and promote the rights of students on the national stage, and which saves students money by providing hundreds of discounts through the ever popular NUS extra [discount] card,” she said.