The National Union of Students Conference takes place from 25-27 April in Brighton and, once again, we will be in attendance.
It promises to be three days of constant campaigning, debating and flogging Solidarity and other publications. Malia Bouattia is re-standing for President against two right-wing candidates.
While credit is due for her commitment to campaigning for a free and liberated education system, there remain many criticisms of her twelve months in office. The limpness of last November’s national demonstration indicates the union’s disengagement from grassroots organising. Workers’ Liberty will be backing Bouattia while making very clear our criticisms.
Solid left-winger Ana Oppenheim is running for the full-time Vice President Higher Education position; and Jenny Killin for Vice President Welfare. Both are running as candidates for the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) . Both are on the Labour left and have campaigning records as sabbatical officers. We will be actively campaigning for them during conference.
We anticipate important debates on the future of the higher education sector. NCAFC is supporting a motion calling for a continuation of the National Student Survey (NSS) Boycott, a tactic as part of the movement to defeat the government’s higher education reforms. While take-up has not been uniform nationwide, we believe this tactic needs further support as well as escalation on other fronts in order to tackle the disastrous Higher Education and Research Bill.
A motion on Palestine is likely to be discussed. NUS policy is to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel in order to support the Palestinian struggle for freedom — although only passed by the National Executive Committee (NEC), not so far by conference.
While supporting demonstrations and actions against the Israeli government we have many criticisms of this policy. We will continue to argue that the BDS movement may strengthen Israeli isolationism and nationalism, ultimately resulting in further oppression of the Palestinians.
This conference will be particularly important in shaping the future direction of NUS. Proposed constitutional changes may abolish the NEC, making FTOs even less accountable to students. The whole culture of cliques organising around FTOs needs to go. We need democracy accessible to all students.