Oxford University students have taken action to leave the National Union of Students (NUS). In a referendum vote, the question ‘Do you want to re-affiliate with the NUS?’ was put to students. The Yes campaign received 1652 votes, whilst No received 1780. There were 32 abstentions, an overall turnout of 15.1% of the Oxford student population. Oxford now joins institutions such as St. Andrews, Imperial College London and Southampton University in not being part of the NUS.
The implications of this result mean that more responsibility will be put upon Oxford University Students Union (OUSU) to support and provide for students, whom will benefit from receiving some of the £25,000 that would have been used as a re-affiliation fee to the NUS.
Both sides were heavily campaigned for over the election period.
Key members of the Yes campaign, had cited arguments for re-affiliation such as the tangible benefits all students receive from the NUS card, whilst highlighting the importance of having a national voice for students, enabling Oxford to be part of larger movements across the UK.
The No campaign strongly argued a belief that the NUS no longer represented University students in a satisfactory manner, stating students had felt let down by NUS actions during protests in 2010 when higher university fees were introduced, and that the NUS had not taken meaningful action since. Another key point of the No campaign included the £25,000 NUS re-affiliation fee having the potential be put to better use by the OUSU, making a difference through support of volunteering, access projects, increased transport systems and support for disabled or chronically ill students.
Supporters of the No campaign believe this result will be a wakeup call to the NUS as one of the most prestigious universities in the UK leaves its ranks, whilst a number of opposed Oxford students have called this a classic case of ‘Oxbridge arrogance’, sending negative signals to the outside world.
Should independence not be a successful endeavour, Oxford students will have the opportunity to re-affiliate next year, when the same referendum question is put to them. Precedence of leaving the NUS only to return within a year has been set previously by Durham University in 2010.