Tomorrow is the start of the National Conference of the National Union of Students. 1,500 delegates will vote in next year's teams of officers.
Traditionally conference has been biased towards only representing the needs of a certain type of students- the traditional 18-25 undergraduate student. However, instutions are rapidly becoming more diverse- and there has been a huge shift in diverse sections of students. The NUS sections tries to represent diverse groups, comprising of three campaigns: International students, Postgraduate students and Mature and Part-time Students.
This year, we've asked all candidates for NUS posistions four questions on how they intend to represent their diverse membership if elected in the upcoming year.
1. What experience have you had in the past with these groups of students? (Max 300 words)
2. How do you intend to involve the sections in the mainstream of NUS' political agenda? (Max 300 words)
3. How would you ensure the work of your zone takes non-traditional learners into account? (Max 300 words)
4. What will you do to more specifically target and improve the lives of these students and include it into your work next year? (Max 400 words)
Most of my answers for each question related to more than one question so I've written one response and I hope that's ok.
Having been a welfare, equality and diversity sabbatical officer at Leeds Met Students' Union and a liberation officer at NUS I have been, work with and worked for all student sections closely. I have ensured that they are well represented within any work I have done and that we have genuine and open dialogue between the LGBT campaign and the sections.
At Leeds Met I was proud that we piloted the Internationalising Students' Unions project. This increased the unions understanding of international students and therefore their participation also increased.
During a governance review we made additional effort to look at new and innovative ways to engage mature students. We did this by changing the agenda from having 'coffee meetings' to actually talking about academic issues of interest to these students specifically.
Being a part time student alongside a part time paid officer in NUS has given me an insight into the day to day (mostly financial and academic) challenges part time students face. I'm only just coming to the end of my undergraduate studies and my institution did not have a large number of post grad students. However I believe I have worked well in the LGBT campaign with the current post - grad taught and research reps to ensure issues that related to both areas are on the agenda.
I believe it's about more than just involving people in the political agenda but giving them the means to set it. As a liberation officer I know what it's like to feel sidelined as a campaign and not included in the central work of NUS. As VP UD I would continue to be the consultative, inclusive and considerate leader that I believe I have already proven myself to be. I'm a strong believer in those who experience injustice are best to say how to fight it and I believe this is also the case for the student sections.
In my manifesto I commit to ensure that sabbatical officers as workers are properly represented because at present NUS is conflicted in how we represent then and therefore are letting them down. If elected I would ensure that for International Students - I am talking to them about VISA issues for mature, part time and postgrads I would ensure working rights this took into account flexible working hours and arrangement. There are too many unions where it's really difficult for these students to see that sabbatical roles are for them. So this is one way I would target and improve their lives.
Another is thorough the participation research that we're doing. The pilot research is looking at people journeys into and through the student movement. If elected I would ensure the unique journey's of students from the sections and liberation campaigns in NUS were highlighted and profiled too.
Lastly I have made a commitment that if elected when NUS goes through it's pending governance review next year I will lead a far reaching and fully consultative review that has the voices of mature, part time, international (EU and non EU) and post grads at the heart of it. Together our diverse membership makes up the majority of our membership and I want to develop a national union that reflect that.
The UD zone spans the whole organisation and holds the core work that can support and facilitate the growth and expansion on the sections. With the skills in campaigning & training that I have gained in my 2 years as LGBT Officer where we now have 100% positive recommendation for training events. I would support the section to grow and expand in the same way. Inspiring and training activists across the whole UK.