News Article

Should we stay with the National Union of Students (NUS)?

RUSU logo on purple background

As your students' union we want to represent your views and give you opportunities to campaign for the issues you care about at a local and national level. At present, we are part of the National Union of Students (NUS). The NUS should be able to help us with this part of our vision, however we do not believe that they are able to represent us effectively at present. In this statement we’ll provide an overview of who the NUS are, how we connect with them, as well as benefits and risks of leaving. We would love to know what you think before, or at, our all-student vote which will be happening in the autumn term. 

What is the NUS?

The National Union of Students (NUS) aims to be the democratic voice of students' unions and over the last 100 years, NUS have worked with, and on behalf of, students’ unions. Their campaigning work has resulted in many changes within higher education, and they have had a positive impact on the lives of many students. To find out more about the NUS and who they are, you can head to their website.

Our involvement with the NUS

Reading University Students' Union (RUSU) has been a member of the NUS for nearly 100 years, and at times have benefitted from our membership with them. Some of our officers even left Reading and joined the NUS in leadership roles.  

In recent years, as a students' union, we have not had any significant evidence to demonstrate how being a member of NUS has benefitted our members. Our trustees question whether it is beneficial to use our limited financial resources to continue to be part of a national movement who, we do not believe are able to effectively represent us at a national level. In addition, our Student Voice Members want to seek wider student opinion on the matter as they have also expressed concerns relating to our membership of NUS.

At our last Student Voice meeting (10th May 2022) a motion was passed for RUSU to hold a referendum vote on our membership of the NUS. This means we will seek the opinion of the student body as to whether we should leave or remain members of the NUS through an all-student vote. This motion was brought forward by one of our NUS National Conference 2022 Delegates. Due to tight timescales around being able to leave the NUS, we have written to NUS to withdraw RUSU’s membership, pending a referendum, effective 31st December 2022. We are awaiting a response to this letter and will update you when we have received a response. Our plan, pending a response from the all-student vote, or referendum, is outlined below. 

What is an all-student vote?

A referendum is a vote in which all student members of Reading University Students’ Union are entitled to cast a vote. This is an opportunity for you to have your say on the matter. Voting in the referendum has been provisionally scheduled to take place from Monday 14th November to Friday 18th November. All dates relating to the referendum will be posted online at from the 3rd October 2022. In order for the vote to be valid, we require a minimum of 1000 student members to cast their votes. Therefore, we encourage all our members to take part and decide whether we remain affiliated or decide to disaffiliate from the NUS. More details on how to vote will be published in due course, along with the referendum question and other ways to get involved. Your vote does count, so please take part when the referendum takes place in November.

We will use the results from this vote to determine our next steps.

Why have we taken this step?

Our main reasons for this course of action are:  

  • Failure from the NUS to actively engage with RUSU and students at Reading as a whole;  

  • Failure to be an effective voice for students during key government conversations; 

  • Inability to represent us on a national level now the government have removed them from some of those spaces; 

  • Poor value for money;  

  • Ongoing and historic concerns regarding Anti-Semitism within the NUS;  

  • 2022 Liberation Conference not being a safe space for our attendees; 

  • 2022 National Conference not being an environment for productive conversation; 

  • The NUS moving too far away from its core objectives of representing students to become an activist group focusing on niche issues. 

What are the benefits of leaving? 

  • Our membership with the NUS costs around £30,000 per year. This is money which could be reinvested into the wider student experience.  
  • Opportunity to put money/effort into representing our students by campaigning on a regional and national scale (in the spaces where we no longer feel NUS is able to represent us.) 

What are the benefits of staying? 

  • We would still be able to access the TOTUM Card which gives student benefits and is connected to the NUS.  

  • The ability to act as a collective with other NUS members.  

So, as a student, what do I do next? 

We are a student-led organisation and it’s crucial to us that we represent your views.

We'd encourage you to learn more about the NUS so you can make up your own mind about whether or not your students’ union should be members. If you have any questions or thoughts you’d like to ask or share, email your students’ union President, Sheldon Allen,  

Watch this space for an all-student vote in the autumn term where you can vote as to whether we stay or leave. 



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