The NUS Referendum

Should the Students' Union remain a member of the National Union of Students?

This year, alongside the Exec Officer and Part Time Officer elections, we're asking you to vote in our referendum on our continued affiliation with the National Union of Students UK (NUS). The NUS if a confederate association of around 600 students' unions, representing over seven million students in the UK. The NUS is led by a number of elected officers who campaign and represent students' issues nationally. You can find out more about the NUS here.

The Students' Union's annual affiliation fee to the NUS is £37,500 (2019/20). 

Campaign Manifestos

Students have been invited to campaign for either Yes or No in the referendum, which includes submitting a manifesto. Read through these manifestos before you vote.

Yes - Remain Affiliated

Submitted by Adam Haigh

Vote Yes to the NUS.

Since 1922 the National Union of Students (NUS) has been campaigning tirelessly, fighting for the rights of students, supporting its affiliated members and campaigning nationally and internationally for fairer, freer education.

What has the NUS ever done for us?

  • Negotiated with British Rail to create the Student Railcard (now Young Persons Railcard) which has led to discounted travel for millions of students.
  • Tenancy Deposit Schemes established, protecting student deposits in the private rented sector.
  • Universities UK established a Lad Culture/harassment taskforce at request of government, following NUS campaign work.
  • Following an NUS complaint, the Office for Fair Trading rules that universities cannot use academic sanctions to recover non-academic debt. 
  • NUS Campaigned for the continuation of Post-Study Work Visas, after which the government declared 2 year post study work visas for international students

Why should we remain affiliated to the NUS.

  • All of the food and clothing the SU provides is purchased from the NUS consortium. If we decide to remove our affiliation it will cost the Union more money than our annual affiliation fee to find new suppliers and purchase new stock.
  • Being part of the NUS allows us to be part of the much larger national and international political landscape, gives us a much larger ability to influence policy that affects students. Such as Rent Prices, Erasmus and Safety on Campus.
  • Being part of NUS gives us as a Union much more support for our Officers and students. Providing Training, access to resources and ground-breaking research that allows us to hold our institutions and government to account.
  • Our affiliation fees are likely to be halved in the next year, so we will continue to have this support whilst still being able to invest in our own Union and in the students. 
  • In the last 5 years, Manchester students have continually been involved in high level decision making bodies at the NUS, including as Officers, Part of the National Executive Committee and as members of Committees. This has enabled us to be at the forefront of fighting for change across the UK and internationally.

NUS continues to run vital campaigns which benefit all students these include:

  • Establishing a National Education Service
  • Working to Protect the Erasmus Programme
  • Working to tackle the BME attainment gap
  • Tackling sexual misconduct on campus, particularly looking at staff-student misconduct and protecting Postgraduate Students.
  • Campaigning for Reproductive Justice across the UK, including being involved in the Referendum in Northern Ireland.

Voting YES in the NUS referendum means that we, as students, get a say at the national table, it allows us to continue the fight for a better education.

An education that is accessible to all.

An education that protects the rights of staff and students.

An education, that actually represents us.

Being part of the NUS means that we are stronger, able to fight for our rights and able to truly make our time at University the best it possibly can be.

Vote YES to the NUS.


No - Disaffiliate

Submitted by Jacob Huggins

The NUS costs the University of Manchester £37,500 per year. What do students get from this?

  1. Lack of democracy: the NUS is undemocratic and unaccountable. The NUS has refused its members ‘one member, one vote’, creating an echo chamber in which diversity of opinion and thought are systematically repressed.
  2. Lack of free speech: the NUS has supported no-platforming in the past, with even the anti-racist, LGBT activist, Peter Tatchell, being labelled racist by the NUS.
  3. Ineffective opposition to racism: The NUS has been complicit in its condemnation of anti-Semitism- the 58th President of the NUS, Malia Bouattia, once claimed that there exists a "Zionist outpost in British Higher Education”. No disciplinary action was taken by the NUS.
  4. Politicisation: The NUS has become overly politicised, having rejected a motion in 2017 which would have committed to impartiality and political inclusivity.

If we leave the NUS, we will no longer have to associate ourselves with this. We will have greater democratic control over spending and our elected officials will be accountable to us, the students, alone.

So, when you cast your ballot, ask yourself- is the NUS really worth it?

Vote for empowerment. Vote No.

Accordian left NUS Affiliation Referendum Find more...

Manchester SU is currently affiliated to the NUS, along with over 600 other students’ unions across the country.

Accordian left What will happen to my existing TOTUM card? Find more...

All purchased TOTUM cards will remain valid until the expiry date shown on the card.

Accordian left Can I buy a new TOTUM card if Manchester SU leave NUS? Find more...

At the point that Manchester SU has left the NUS no further purchases of the TOTUM card will be authorised. We are however in negotiations with TOTUM and other student discount providers to ensure a discount offer is available whatever the outcome of the Referendum.

Accordian left What is meant by quorum? Find more...

Quorum is the minimum number of votes by which the Referendum is considered valid. Quorum for this Referendum is set at 400 votes. As per our bye-laws regarding NUS (click here)

Accordian left What happens if the referendum does not reach quorum? Find more...

The referendum will be invalid and Manchester SU will remain affiliated to NUS.

Accordian left What happens if abstain wins? Find more...

The referendum will be invalid and Manchester SU will remain affiliated to NUS.

Accordian left Will disaffiliation impact on my studies / club membership? Find more...

Should Manchester SU disaffiliate, your studies and your membership to us will not be affected.

Accordian left If Manchester SU disaffiliates, can we re-join in the future? Find more...

If Manchester SU disaffiliates, another referendum could be held at the discretion of our trustees and as per our Bye Laws in the future.

Accordian left What are the financial implications of affiliation/disaffiliation? Find more...

Each year Manchester SU pays NUS an affiliation fee, paying this fee allows Manchester SU to access NUS’ services such as:

  • Training for staff, students and elected officers
  • Website platform and election software
  • Access to NUS’ purchasing consortium where the Union purchases food, drink, clothing and stationary.

Disaffiliating from NUS will mean Manchester SU will no longer be able to access these services, the Union would then have to establish new partners to provide the services mentioned above.

Accordian left Will I still be able to receive representation? Find more...

Manchester SU will still function in the same way. All members are entitled to representation and this support will still be available whatever the outcome.

Accordian left Will local and national student issues still be championed by Manchester SU if we leave the NUS? Find more...

The Executive and Part-time Officers will still be able to champion these issues via our strong regional and rational relationships with other Students’ Unions our partnership with local MP’s and the Manchester City Council.

Accordian left Can students campaign for a side in the referendum? Find more...
  • Yes, any Manchester student can campaign in the referendum but you need to be registered with the official campaigns teams.
  • To volunteer for the Yes campaign team, please email Emmet Cleaver
  • To volunteer for the No campaign team, please email Brittany Tomlinson
Accordian left Who oversees the referendum? Find more...

The referendum is overseen by a Returning Officer (a staff member or external expert) who makes sure that they are fair, transparent and successful. This year the Returning Officer is the National Union of Students (NUS) and the Deputy Returning Officer is Laura Pike, at Manchester SU. You can email at any time to ask the Returning Officer a question regarding the Referendum.

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