by Kirsten Robertson
The National Union of Students (NUS) held its national conference in Dunblane last week, with delegates from students’ associations across Scotland meeting to discuss policies and elect their national representatives. Through elections, motions and debates, Stirling’s voice was clearly heard during the two day conference.
Elena Semple – studying a masters in Law at the University of Stirling – was comfortably voted into the role of VP Communities. Her passionate speech focused on preventing student evictions during winter and her plans to tackle unpaid internships and work placements. Semple also highlighted the need to encourage students’ unions to have constructive relationships with local transport services, which was later echoed by Stirling NUS delegates. She was the first in the VP Communities position to run (and subsequently win) a second term.
In the Executive Representative elections, Stirling’s Jamie Grant was elected to the eight-member team.
“NUS needs to be relevant and visible to break through the problem of voter apathy.” Grant said in his speech. “I know chairing committees can be like herding cats, but the things a team can achieve when they have clear goals and respect for each other is limitless.”
Grant used examples of progress made in the Stirling student community, such as the creation of an INTO officer and faculty officer role, as well as his work on the Forth Valley Advisory Board to create a more inclusive environment for college students.
The conference also saw a very rare occurrence in the form of Stirling delegates speaking against the motion they proposed alongside Abertay University. Jamie Grant aimed to encourage unions across Scotland to improve communications with their bus providers and, therefore, make transport fairer and more affordable for students.
This comes in response to the work of Grant and Stirling Union President Astrid Smallenbroek in reinstating the four week bus pass with First Bus, a company infamous in Stirling.
Grant said: “Our thinking behind the motion was to go to NUS and explain how we got a solution for our bus problem in Stirling, and then roll that out nationally to help other universities. It would give NUS the framework so other unions can sit down with their bus companies and present a united front.”
However, the main speaker from Abertay University had altered the motion so it focused on free buses for students; a well meaning but unrealistic proposal, which went against the motion initially proposed by Stirling delegates.
First to speak against the motion was Grant, saying, “I’m not against free transport for students – absolutely not. Transport is a constant living issue but this whole motion has become really muddy and I’m actually quite disappointed at that.”
He was followed by fellow Stirling delegate Joshua Muirhead.
He said: “Our Union and students managed to retain four week bus passes, and force First Bus to look at [its] cleanliness and timetables. We wanted to spread this improved communication between students and transport services across Scotland, maybe even the UK. But this is such a pathetic change to our original motion. Free travel is not sustainable because there’s no framework for it.”
The motion was hereby voted down by the NUS Conference.
On a more positive note, Stirling’s Anuurag Mukhia was elected to the Scottish Procedures Committee, meaning that half of Stirling’s NUS Delegates have further positions within the organisation.
A running theme of the conference was the ongoing lecturers strikes. NUS strongly supports the strikes and many delegates made reference to the proposed pension cuts facing lecturers in their speeches. Newly elected president of NUS, Liam McCabe, visited the occupation at Logie Lecture Hall alongside Tam Wilson, elected to the NUS Executive Committee.
Stirling’s Union also picked up an award for ‘Campaign of The Year’ as a result of the work of the #isthisokay campaign, the cherry on top of a successful conference for Stirling University.
The NUS UK Conference will take place in Glasgow on Thursday the 27th of March. If you want topics raised; contact one of your Stirling NUS Representatives.
- Elena Semple
- Astrid Smallenbrook
- Jamie Grant
- Joshua Muirhead
- Henrietta Mochrie
- Anuraag Mukhia
- Wullie Cunningham