THE BLOG

In Defence of National Union of Students

14/04/2014 13:34 BST | Updated 12/06/2014 10:59 BST

I look awful, I'm covered in garish stickers and t-shirts and I keep using phrases like "structural inequality". No guesses for where I've just been: NUS' National Conference - where national policy and full time officers are decided - based this year in Liverpool.

And the only thing that's more certain to happen than someone at Conference bashing Nick 'so so sorry' Clegg, is the outpouring of cynicism and apathy to NUS that reaches a crescendo every Easter when conference is hosted.

To those people, the first thing I'd say is: I get it. I really bloody do, and that's because I was you several years ago. What does NUS do? Where the hell do our affiliation fees go? Who are these unaccountable unrepresentative randoms? Aren't they all just politicians in disguise?

You're a student, and because of that, what your leaders do and say matters. You're one of 7 million members in Further Education and Higher Education, from Edinburgh to Exeter and if you don't think people who represent you are doing so very well, you should say.

There is however, a problem. And that is that you dear reader, are wrong. I was wrong. A couple of days after NUS Conference, I'm still revelling in how wrong I was, when I thought that NUS didn't matter.

That's because NUS changes students lives and it does it every day. Not just individuals who are fighting for students, but the movement as a whole. It really does affect all of us, even if it doesn't feel like it.

Because NUS isn't just your President and 5 Vice-Presidents. It's not even just the National Executive Council. It's every staff member, every Full and Part time Sabbatical Officer, every student who sends a tweet, signs a petition or goes to a meeting, anywhere.

The individuals who make up NUS are doing important things every day. They're fighting racism/fascism, they're lobbying their university for money for services for students and they're campaigning on things that are relevant to all of us. Housing. Student poverty. Employability.

NUS have secured 45 million pounds from the Government to begin a postgraduate support scheme. This is an important first step in making sure that anyone - no matter your background or your parent's job - can access postgraduate education. They've secured an OFT inquiry into non academic debt. We're finally focusing on the injustice that if you're late on rent, or haven't paid library fines - often you're not allowed to graduate. They've fought for Student Opportunities fund, all about making HE accessible to all.The list goes on.

It's not even about defending the leadership of NUS, or an elections thing. But credit where credit's due. Do not question the determination or relevance of NUS, because they have both in spades. It can be a forum to delight, and inspire, and it has been for me.

Yes, NUS (and especially National Conference) can be messy and frustrating and weird. There were 800 people representing 7 million students this week. Do we always get it right? Do we hell.

But it's also a place where people from all over this country come together and talk about what we have done and what we will do to work for students. NUS is a place for everyone. It's where you meet old friends and make new ones and I swear to God, you will never meet a more passionate group of people. Anywhere, ever.

That makes it kind of special, in my opinion.