As a student, the National Union of Students continues to embarrass me. For years, those at the NUS have provided a platform for wannabe career politicians to force fringe issues onto the student political agenda – some ridiculous, some futile, and many frankly odious.
Former President Malia Bouattia opposed a motion calling on the NUS to condemn ISIS on the grounds of Islamophobia. Under her Presidency – and before, admittedly – the NUS cultivated a dangerous obsession with Palestine. The current President has been forced to deny allegations of bullying in the workplace. Today, the NUS is becoming more and more of an irrelevance for students; an irritating bastion of political correctness. Case in point; replacing clapping at conferences with ‘jazz hands’ on the grounds clapping discriminates against deaf students.
Even Wes Streeting, formerly NUS President and current Labour MP for Ilford North, has described the NUS as ‘lost’. ‘It’s had good leadership… but no longer represents students.’ I wholeheartedly agree. Universities such as Surrey have recently voted to leave the NUS on the grounds that it does very little for students – and honestly, we could probably live without the discount card.
But increasingly, the NUS is becoming costly to the ordinary taxpayer as well. The TaxPayers’ Alliance recently released a damning report on the NUS – looking at payments it received from students’ unions, universities, government departments, devolved administrations and council – at least £50,145,280.
After all of this, it has expanded unnecessarily into a quasi-corporation – which I’d argue cares more about political correctness, having its say on Israel, and the careerists at its helm than your average student. According to the report, local and national government gave over £34 million in funding to the NUS in less than 6 years – the equivalent of 3,700 student’s tuition fees. Affiliation fees from students unions’ totalled £16,027,915. That’s money that could be used to improve facilities and services – not just giving the next Malia Bouattia a platform to launch their career.
James Price, Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘the NUS seems to be little more than a political organisation that excludes young people with dissenting views and fails to focus on the services that matter to students. It is simply unacceptable that taxpayers, most of whom don’t go to university, are having to fork out millions each year to fund this organisation. We are calling on the government to re-examine whether these payments to the NUS should be withdrawn and instead spent on public services.’
Not only are ordinary taxpayers often having to support their kids through University – but they’re paying into an organisation which does little to nothing to improve their son or daughter’s education. At a time when the government is tightening its belt – perhaps it’s time to re-examine our spending priorities, and there is absolutely no way the extraneous NUS should be one.