With the media narrative about students’ unions breaking from NUS getting somewhat out of hand, Mark Leach asks what’s actually going on – and runs down the key votes to watch out for in the coming weeks.
Sajid Javid didn’t like students’ unions a great deal in the 1990s – Mark Leach takes a quick look at an interesting history of the new Secretary of State’s involvement in student politics.
As NUS and OFFA pull out of a conference taking place today in London due to the inclusion of payday lenders, NUS’ Colum McGuire explains why action must now be taken to crack down on companies that are exploiting student hardship.
Students are partners in higher education because of the efforts they put into their own learning and because our students’ unions representation and student-led activity systems make it possible for students to contribute to forging an engaging and dynamic learning environment. Megan Dunn from NUS looks at the new Framework for Partnership and why it matters to the sector.
Cheered on by the right-wing press, it is a widely-held belief that there are “too many graduates”. So what does HE expansion look like in that context and what form should it take? Not pulling the ladder up, but moving and positioning it, ensuring that the expansion of the future offers transformation and returns appropriate to the age, not build on outdated ideas and prejudices. Jim Dickinson reflects on the wider debate and the ideologies and politics that drive it.
The idea of students as active participants in learning has led to numerous projects designed to support students to contribute to shaping their course delivery and content, anything from independent study modules to students working with course leaders to shape their curriculum. All these things are good, interesting, valuable projects, but are they partnership? Are we in danger of adopting the language of partnership, or applying the ideas of partnership to specific one-off schemes and projects, while missing its transformational implication?
Imagine, fellow wonks, if you will, your vice chancellor or chief executive coming to you one day to be briefed on the latest impenetrable funding council communiqué. Deciding what your institution’s or organisation’s opinion should be will involve speaking with experts and respected colleagues, reviewing research, thinking about how the media might tell the story and second-guessing your competitors. It probably includes waving a finger in the air to test which way the political winds are blowing.
It almost certainly does not involve handing the decision over to a thousand-strong student rabble with a three-day hangover. Who know significantly less than you do about any given policy issue in higher education. For a body of professionals hired and valued for our expert knowledge base, NUS National Conference must surely seem to wonks to be the worst idea ever concocted.
There’s a long tradition of student politics and activism at university. Sometimes it has been in response to wider political concerns such as wars or cuts. But other times it has been specifically targeted at university management in order to force a change in policy. The past twenty years have seen a step-change in the professionalisation of university leadership, with modern governance practices embedded, clearer lines of accountability drawn and more transparent systems of change deployed. At roughly the same time, students’ unions have undergone a similar process of professionalisation. This has resulted in a very different campus culture emerging over the past twenty years – where it was once an adversarial relationship, students’ unions are now seen as partners in ensuring a high-quality student experience.
The news that Liam Burns has been elected as the new President of The National Union of students arrived earlier this afternoon. He won by a fairly convincing margin – 446 votes with Shane Chowen coming in second place with 279. Pundits were predicting a much tighter race – and there have been some extremely close results over the years. (In 2004, the winner won with a majority of just 2 votes).
Last week we reported on Aaron Porter’s impossibly difficult political situation and today he has announced that he won’t be seeking re-election in the forthcoming NUS elections. This will come as a shock to many who assumed that he would re-stand and most probably win. From his statement, it’s clear that he’s come to the conclusion… read more
This morning’s story in The Times about a leaked NUS memo advising students’ unions to “not fight against fees” was depressingly predictable. Wonkhe has seen the secret memo which is not at all hard to get hold of and it doesn’t advise anything of the sort. It discusses fees and what institutions might take into account when setting pricing levels and it suggest that SUs if not already, should demand to be part of the decision making process as the legitimate representatives of the student body. It suggests questions that might be worth asking as part of holistic campaign to ensure a fair deal for students. It doesn’t take an expert in campaigning to realise that a students’ union president will get more leverage through a well-informed debate at University Council than standing outside the registry with a placard saying “NO TO FEES!”
How do you represent the collective interests of the HE sector? Universities UK, the representative organisation for the UK’s universities, aims to be the voice for all institutions. They attempt to “promote a successful and diverse higher education sector” [Source]. This is a difficult task. A big reason is because of the word ‘diverse’. While… read more