On Monday, Helen Pritchard, my Vice-President of Education at UWLSU has successfully submitted a call for a national ballot. This call has been supported by over 38 students’ unions across the country and we have received additional calls for support since the ballot was submitted.
We have called for a national ballot to request an equality impact assessment and risk assessment to be published on the proposed action to boycott the NSS. We think that it is only right that NUS is transparent about the dangers and risks connected with this action and reviews the impact that this could have on specific groups of students.
Where has this request for a ballot come from?
We have tried to get our voices heard a number of times. We have responded to the consultation, we tried to submit a motion to the September NEC and parts of this motion were removed without conversation with us. As a result, this no longer made it our motion, therefore, they left us no option but to withdraw it.
After speaking to a number of students’ unions it was clear that NUS was not listening to what we had to say. All we are asking for is to postpone the NSS boycott until we have an equality impact assessment. When the NEC stops listening to students’ unions there is a constitutional provision to call a “National Ballot” on an issue. We trigged this on Monday.
Why is this important to unions like ours?
We represent students studying at the University of West London. We completely agree that the marketization of HE does not deliver the kind of inclusive empowering education system we want or need in the UK. Our uni is underfunded – we don’t have mountains of alumni donations coming in, nor do we own a vast portfolio of estates. At UWL we are trying to work in partnership to survive, and to protect the value of the degrees that UWL graduates use to gain employment.
At UWL the majority of the student body are classified in lower socio-economic groups (against all measures – previous HE experience in family, family income, previous school etc) and more than half of all UWL home students are BAME or People of Colour (students are currently having a conversation about the terminology they wish to use which is why we are using both terms). The students we work with are concerned about working to support themselves while they study and getting a job to simply to make ends meet after uni. UWL students aren’t in the economic position to be able to risk the reputation of their uni or the value of their degrees, nor are they prepared to risk driving a wedge in the relationship between them and their uni. I strongly believe that, should the NSS boycott go ahead, these eventualities are entirely possible. Instead, our students want to be able to continue to make the uni a better place by working in partnership with staff at all levels of the institution.
So what’s next?
To be clear, we’re not calling to over-turn conference policy. We are calling for NUS to carry out and publish a detailed, independent equality impact assessment on the impact of both the action itself, and of any fallout from the action identified in the Risk Assessment, especially the impact of such action on specific groups of students and different types of institutions. It’s absolutely right that NUS to postpone the boycott until the above is done.
I am calling on all students’ unions who support our ballot to get in touch with us. If our voices are truly going to be listened to then it’s time to think about all students, not just a few, and stand with us on this matter.
Yours in unity,
1. That policy was passed by National Conference on Boycott/Sabotage of NSS in spring 2017.
2. It did this in order to disrupt the implementation of the TEF and Higher Education Undergraduate Home fees in England.
3. On timetables published by HEFCE, that would only impact on Year Three of the TEF- and the Government would press ahead using other data anyway.
4. If we want to make meaningful change to the Government’s proposals, we should be focussed on lobbying MPs and the HE Bill now, not planning a strategy that might have an impact when it’s too late.
5. The NSS provides incredibly valuable data to drive change within student demographics, protected characteristics and departments in Universities.
6. Underfunded Sus – especially small and specialist ones – have successfully argued that improvements to their grant will make an impact on their NSS score.
7. HEFCE have announced a refocussing of the NSS next year on students’ academic experience. This will mean that students’ unions’ education and representative function gets recognition, focus and funding.
8. Many SUs have fed back that a boycott would directly harm their funding and representative capacity.
9. NUS should reaffirm its opposition to the use of NSS to justify raising fees.
10. The wave of disaffiliation attempts from SUs demonstrate that NUS needs to listen to SUs and their concerns now more than ever.
NEC further believes
11. Students’ unions have told us that there are a number of risks connected with this action.
12. The negative impact on our key stakeholder influence could affect our campaigning and lobbying work on issues such as access, widening participation, retention and tuition fees.
13. Many students’ unions have also expressed a concern that this action could have an impact on specific groups of students, students’ union and institutions. Especially students from diverse WP backgrounds.
1. Carry out and publish a detailed risk assessment on the risks posed to students’ unions’ funding and representative capacity of implementing a Boycott/Sabotage policy of NSS.
2. In doing so to take particular account of the differential risks faced by smaller and specialist SUs and their funding.
3. To take into account in this risk assessment the risks faced by NUS in terms of the relationships it holds, on behalf of students and students’ unions across the UK, with the key national stakeholders on issues such as access, widening participation, retention and tuition fees.
4. To carry out and publish a detailed equality impact assessment on the impact of both the action itself, and of any fallout from the action identified in the Risk Assessment, especially the impact of such action on specific groups of students and different types of institutions,
5. To draw up a lobbying and campaigning strategy that can have a real impact on the Government’s HE proposals now, not when it’s too late.
6. To listen to SUs and postpone implementation of any NSS boycott or sabotage in light of the above.