In a referendum on Oxford University Student Union’s membership of the NUS, called in the wake of Malia Bouattia’s election as national president, 57 per cent of voters supported remaining in the union, with 40 per cent backing disaffiliation.
Ms Bouattia, who unseated serving president Megan Dunn at the NUS’ annual conference in April, has faced accusations of anti-Semitism – which she vehemently denies – and has been criticised for sharing a platform with the controversial advocacy group Cage. Ms Bouattia’s election also marked a significant step to the left for the NUS, and concerns have been raised about whether the national organisation represents the views of the majority of students.
Richard Brooks, the NUS’ vice-president (union development), said that the union would respond to these concerns.
“We have a lot of work to do, but we are already developing a new democratic structure and look forward to OUSU being part of this process,” Mr Brooks said. “Concerns have been raised by Oxford students about anti-Semitism within NUS, and these will not be ignored. We take these concerns seriously, and we will act on them.”
Cambridge students had previously voted to stay affiliated to the NUS, with 52 per cent of students in favour of continued membership and 47 per cent against.
Alongside the country’s two most prestigious universities, students at the universities of Warwick, Exeter, Surrey and Essex have voted to stay with the NUS, while students at the universities of Lincoln and Hull and Newcastle University have voted to leave.
Ms Bouattia will be the NUS’ first black female president, but the disaffiliation votes will mark a major challenge for the start of her term in July, with every union that leaves costing the national organisation in subscription fees.