Reform Paper 2024 - NUS-USI

For our Future: revitalising our national union

NUS UK reforms 


What’s the issue and why is it important? 

1. We’re living in a period of rapid change in our society – politically, economically and technologically. We are only just beginning to understand how this will transform our education, our students’ unions and our lives.

2. In the face of undeniable change NUS UK cannot stand still and watch from the sidelines, it is on us to respond to the evolving needs of our movement. We must constantly adapt, improve and reinvent our national union to make sure it is fit to fight for students in the decades to come.

3. To futureproof NUS UK we need structures and governance that enable us to move quickly, maximise the potential for members to shape NUS’ work across the year, whilst testing and adopting different methods for our work to be directly influenced by the 7 million students we represent.

4. There have been consistent calls from our members for each Nation to have greater autonomy and for NUS to adopt more decentralised ways of working that enable wider and deeper engagement from across the movement.

5. Across our democratic conferences over the past couple of years members have voted to transform the way that NUS works.

6. We have heard loud and clear that both students and sabbs want a more direct link to their national union. For NUS to continue to be a powerful and credible national student voice it’s vital that we strengthen our connections with both.

7. Our collective power is our greatest strength. Securing political autonomy of nations and liberation groups should in no way weaken our commitment to collectivism.

8. In its 102nd year of existence, this is our chance to deliver a national union that fully engages and empowers all of its members. 


What do we further believe? 

9. Through policy passed at National, Liberation, Scotland and Wales Conferences NUS has a clear mandate for reform. 

10. Extensive consultation on draft proposals published in 2023 demonstrate widespread support for these reforms across members in all four nations, in further and higher education.  

11. The principles of financial sustainability from the last set of reforms in 2019 should be retained so that NUS’ core expenditure does not increase; 

  • The affiliation fee should not increase for SUs 
  • The number of staff to support FTOs should not drop to below 3.8:1 
  • NUS UK should continue to make £175k surplus annually to rebuild reserves 

12. In NUS, as is in wider British society, ‘UK’ and ‘England’ are conflated in terms of policy, campaigns, elected leadership, and communications. 

13. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are ‘devolved nations’ with devolved elected leaders, governments, powers and activities. The majority of matters that NUS campaigns on are devolved, including education, housing, health and transport. 

14. England makes up 80% of NUS membership. As a result, NUS UK’s campaigns and structures are often England-centred. For all four nations to be able to determine and campaign effectively on their own priorities, UK and England must be separated in NUS’ structures. NUS England will include a conference for SUs in England, elected officers, policy making, and campaigns capacity.  

15. UK representation should continue through the Officer Executive comprising 7 officers from four nations; and UK wide campaigning will happen when nations choose to work together on shared priorities. 

16. Corporate governance and organisational infrastructure will continue to be provided at a UK level. 

17. UK wide working will also happen through the Liberation Collective, a new liberation structure featuring an individual membership model for any student or sabb that defines into a liberation group. 

18. Member unions should form an integral part of NUS’ work in three key ways; by feeding in ideas and views; being part of delivering campaigns; and providing support and scrutiny.

19. Each nation operates at a different scale and within a unique context. Reforms should introduce new powers for nations to determine the membership engagement structures that work best them, so long as they deliver on the three key requirements above.


What this Conference resolves  

20. That the reforms deliver political autonomy for each nation, while harnessing the strength of our collective.

21. That membership engagement structures determined by each nation and in liberation will empower members and strengthen their engagement and connection with NUS. 

22. To instruct the Steering Committee to draft a new set of Rules to the conference based on the principles of reform in this policy and the discussions held in conference workshops. These new rules to be proposed to conference reps for adoption in the next academic year. 

23. To support reforms that will be voted on at NUS National Conference 2024 and a Company Law meeting.


Specific impact for NUS-USI

  • Update to the Trilateral Agreement; referencing NUS Rules & Articles of Association and updated governance structures; invite NUS Charity to be party to the Agreement. Without a National President, NUS UK representation would be decided by the officer team.
  • Creation of an NUS-USI Rep-based scrutiny mechanism, replacing National Scrutiny Council.