Election Rules

If you wish to submit a complaint against a candidate you are advised to read these rules in full, in particular the core rules. To submit your complaint use the online form linked to in the complaints section of the rules.

NUS UK Election Rules 

NUS UK is run by its members and elections have an important role in this, being used to elect our political leadership. These rules set out how we run elections and cover what voters and candidates should expect when participating in elections. These rules are based on the following core principles: 

  • We aim to elect people in a free and fair manner 
  • Elections are the mechanism for our members to choose their representatives 
  • Wherever possible the electorate should always decide/be the decision makers 
  • We are not here to give everyone an equal chance of winning, just a fair one. 

Who’s who in elections 

Each election is assigned a Returning Officer who is responsible for overseeing the election. This includes confirming nominations and deciding on candidate eligibility, making rulings on complaints, and overseeing the count. The Returning Officer is the first point of contact for each election. 

You may also see mention of a Deputy Returning Officer. This person is responsible for the practical running of all of NUS UK’ elections, assigning Returning Officers to particular elections, and providing them with advice. The Deputy Returning Officer may also oversee particular elections. 

There is also a Chief Returning Officer who is responsible for setting these rules, interpreting articles, and conduct of elections as a whole. The Chief Returning Officer does not act as a Returning Officer in elections or get involved in any of the day-to-day running of elections. Instead, they act as an independent source of appeal with the power to make final rulings on any elections matter. 

Core Rules 

It should be noted that these rules are the property of the Chief Returning Officer and their designates and they alone will be the interpreter of them.  

Candidates shall be responsible for the actions of their campaign teams. Candidates must take reasonable steps to ensure that their supporter’s actions comply with the campaign rules at all times and must be able to demonstrate this in the event of a complaint against them. 


  1. must treat other candidates, students and members of the public with respect. 
  2. should not undertake campaigns activity which others could not also reasonably do. 
  3. campaigns should be fully transparent and accountable to NUS UK. 
  4. must not do anything to gain an unfair advantage. 
  5. must not undermine the fair and democratic running of elections. 
  6. must allow voters to cast their ballot freely and must not communicate with voters in any way once they have begun to complete their ballot. Every electronic device will be deemed a ballot box. 
  7. must not break the law, venue specific regulations or general NUS UK policy including Code of ConductSocial Media Policy and Staff Protocol (see below for further guidance)
  8. must have a commitment to anti-racism including tackling Islamophobia (as per the APPG Definition) and Antisemitism (as per the IHRA definition
  9. candidates may only undertake campaigning activities within designated spaces at conferences 
  10. may only alter, move or remove their own campaign materials. 
  11. may only use mailing lists where lawful to do so. In most cases, this will require the consent of the members on the list to use their details. 


Candidates must not exceed their budget limits. These are: 

  • Full time officer roles: £130 
  • All other roles: £50 

All candidates who have incurred expenditure must submit a written list of all campaign costs with corresponding receipts to the Returning Officer no later than 1 hour after polls close. If candidates do not spend any money during the course of their campaign this must be made clear on the submission. 

  • Items freely and readily available to all candidates can be used without itemisation. 

NUS UK will not reimburse campaign expenses. For certain elections NUS UK may cover certain travel costs to allow candidates’ participation in campaign events e.g. hustings. This will be communicated to candidates and will not count to campaign spending limits.

NUS UK Code of Conduct

The NUS UK Code of Conduct (‘the Code of Conduct’) aims to ensure good standards of behaviour of those who participate in NUS UK spaces. For the avoidance of doubt the Code of Conduct applies to elections candidates from the point of nomination and if holding themselves out to be election candidates. Historic incidents may be considered to be within scope of the code of conduct if the individual restates the views or comments and/or if the views or comments remain in the public domain (for example – they remain visible on a current social media profile irrespective of when posted).

In circumstances where a conduct issue is raised which falls under the scope of the Code of Conduct it is most appropriate to investigate under this policy. In all such circumstances the Returning Officer must refer the matter to the appropriate complaints procedure as outlined in sections 5-7 of the Code of Conduct.

The Returning Officer will take direction from the code of conduct outcome as to any sanction on candidates. As per s. 7.2 of the Code of Conduct, where there is a serious breach of the Code of Conduct, and the sanction is that the individual is no longer eligible to stand for or hold office, the Returning Officer will automatically remove the candidate from the election.

The Elections Process 

Becoming a Candidate 

There are three stages to becoming a candidate in an NUS UK election. These are: determining eligibility, gathering information, submitting your application. 

1. Find out if you are eligible 

To be eligible to stand as an election candidate you must be a current student or sabbatical officer at a Students’ Union which is an affiliated member of NUS UK at the time of the election. Per NUS UK Article 33.4NUS full time officers are only eligible to stand for the position of NUS National President. 

In addition, for certain roles there are additional eligibility criteria which you must meet. These criteria can be found in the list of current live elections

For Full Time Officer roles you must have the right to work in the UK for the full two-year term of office. You must also be nominated by other students. You must receive nominations from students or sabbatical officers in different Students’ Unions (one can be from your SU). The number of nominations required and details about requirements for nominators will be made available with candidate information. 

2. Tell the voters about yourself 

We also ask that you prepare information for your candidacy

  • A head and shoulders photograph 
  • Depending on the election we would usually ask for further supporting info to tell voters about yourself

None of the above information is mandatory, it is however beneficial to your candidacy that you submit this. You will need to submit this by the deadline for submitting your candidate application. Any information received after the deadline we cannot guarantee to include. 

3. Submit your application 

You must do this using our online form by the stated deadline. If an alternative format is required by a candidate they should contact [email protected] to request this. A link to the form and candidacy deadlines can be found at https://www.nus.org.uk/conferences

Any applications made after the deadline will not be considered. You should allow plenty of time to account for any technical issues. Once your candidacy application has been submitted you will receive an automatic email. If you do not receive this email or you believe there have been technical issues with submitting your nomination you must let us know before the deadline. 

On the form you will be asked for the following information. We advise you gather this together in advance of submitting your application 

  • Your name and contact details 
  • Proof of your student status (this can include a current student card showing your dates of study, a letter from your University or Students’ Union confirming student status). 
  • Details of your nominators (if applicable) 
  • You will also be asked to declare that you have read and understood these rules and will make your campaign team aware of them. 

4. Candidate Preparation process

Before the announcement of candidates there will be a period of candidate preparation during which no campaigning may take place. For candidates standing for Full Time Officer positions this will include:

  • Checking of nominations to ensure all candidates are eligible to stand for election. If further information is required candidates will be asked to provide this within a specified timeframe.
  • A candidate declaration covering upholding of NUS UK’ Articles of Association, policies and detailing any historical statements or conduct issues which may come to light in an election
  • Candidate support, briefing and training

Further details will be published with details of nominations. For volunteer roles the Returning Officer will publish further details and this would usually involve a condensed process based on the above.

The Returning Officer will then let you know if you have met the eligibility criteria and are accepted as a candidate. We will then announce the candidates for election. Only once this is completed, campaigning can begin.

Re-Open Nominations (RON) 

Re-Open Nominations or 'RON' is a democratic mechanism to allow voters to choose not to elect any of the candidates in the election. If RON wins the election, then nominations may re-open and this will give more people the chance to stand for the position. If RON is elected in a multiple seat election behind a winning candidate this creates a vacancy and nominations may reopen for this vacancy. 

Campaigning for RON must be accountable and RON campaigns are governed by these election rules. Only registered RON campaigners may run a RON campaign. In order to register to run a Re-Open Nominations (RON) campaign, you must do this using our online form by the stated deadline. A link to the form and deadlines can be found https://www.nus.org.uk/conferences 


For each election, there will be a campaigning period where you can get your message out to voters. The RO will determine when the campaigning period begins and when you are able to commence campaigning.. In addition to your campaigning activities, the Returning Officer will let you know about opportunities to get your message out to voters. These may include: 

  • Information about candidates on the NUS website and social media 
  • Hustings – either online or in-person 
  • Opportunities for voters to pose questions to candidates 
  • Speeches at the Conference that elects the position 

The Returning Officer will communicate to candidates ahead of the election what election activities will be taking place. 


Ballots open in advance of conferences and dates of opening of voting are available on the NUS website

For each election, the Returning Officer will announce the method of voting. Voting will be by secret ballot and be conducted either in electronic format or, in certain circumstances, in paper format. Ballots will display the chosen name of the candidate and the position they are standing for. Online voting will also display supporting information and pictures (where supplied by the candidate). 

Each election is voted on by conference delegates. Ballots will be issued to each delegate of the conference who has been registered online by the stated deadline. For electronic votes a link will be sent to the email address for each delegate – we strongly advise voters to check their emails and find their voting links well in advance of close of voting. 

Any technical issues with voting links must be reported to [email protected] 24 hours in advance of close of voting. Whilst every effort will be made to rectify issues we may not have time to do this. It is the responsibility of voters to ensure in good time that they are able to properly cast their vote.

Elections with one position will take place via Alternative Vote, elections with more than one position will use Single Transferable Vote. 

The Count 

The Returning Officer will arrange for the count to occur as soon as possible after the close of polling. In setting a time for the count the RO should consider the need to announce the election result in a timely manner to candidates and voters along with the requirement to have ruled on all outstanding election appeals and to perform checks on the voting data. The count will be attended by the relevant Returning Officer for the election, NUS staff supporting the election and any other person the Returning Officer deems appropriate to ensure the transparency and good conduct of the election. Count sheets will be shared with any member on request.

For electronic counts, candidates will be sent the count sheet in order to scrutinise and ask questions to the Returning Officer. In line with NUS’ Privacy Policy we are unable to share voter information with candidates or their representatives but will provide as much anonymised information as possible to ensure transparency. In the event of a paper count taking place, candidates may send one observer to the count for their election but cannot attend the election count themselves. 

Announcing the Result 

Election results will be announced by the Returning Officer at the conference which elects the positions (if the count has taken place by then) or on the NUS website. Results will be shared with candidates prior to public announcement.


Complaints may be submitted by any student (as defined in Schedule 1.34 of NUS UK’s Articles of Association), any Member (as defined in Articles 10.4 and 10.5) or Associate Member (per Article 13). All complaints should contain the following information: 

  • Which of the guiding principles the candidate is alleged to have breached 
  • Information about the nature of the complaint, including where relevant, dates times and locations 
  • An idea of what the complainant wants to happen as a result of the complaint
  • Supporting evidence to back up the complaint 

All complaints must be submitted using the online form with relevant evidence. This can be found at https://forms.nus.org.uk/view.php?id=417445 

If there are any issues with the online form please contact [email protected]

The Returning Officer will investigate the complaint and determine whether it will be upheld. If upheld, possible courses of action can include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • A public warning 
  • Directing candidates to remove election materials/delete social media posts 
  • Suspending a candidate’s campaigning activities for a given period of time
  • In extreme circumstances, the Returning Officer may disqualify a candidate 

The deadline for the submission of complaints is one hour after the close of polling. The Returning Officer will publish anonymised complaints outcomes after the election as part of their report to conference.


If a student/member/candidate is dissatisfied with the outcome of a complaint, they may be able to request the opportunity to appeal. The appeal may only be made by the impacted individual and only in circumstances where a sanction has been imposed, not where a complaint has been dismissed. Appeals will be considered by the Civica Election Services as Chief Returning Officer who acts as an independent point of appeal, having not been involved in the original complaint investigation.  

A request for an appeal should be on the following grounds, including but not confined to: 

  • a review of the procedures followed when considering the original complaint 
  • a consideration of whether the outcome was reasonable in all the circumstances 
  • new material evidence which the student was unable, for valid reasons, to provide earlier in the process 

The appeal stage will not usually consider the issues afresh or involve a further investigation. 

Appeals must be made in writing to [email protected] and must be submitted before the commencement of the election count. Appeals will be considered by the Civica Election Services whose decision will be final.

Data Protection Statement

All candidate data will be processed in line with NUS UK’s Privacy Policy.

Data sharing: In order to facilitate the process of elections as laid out in these rules and supporting documentation, it will be neccesary to share candidate personal data with third party data processors (e.g. to returning officers considering complaints, third party contractors undertaking work on candidate checks for NUS). This is an essential part of the elections process.

Data retention: We will only use and store your information for as long as it is required for the purposes it was collected for. How long it will be stored for depends on the information in question, what it is being used for and, sometimes, statutory legal requirements.  See the privacy policy for more detail.

Archiving: As an organisation that archives information for public records, we take privacy seriously. We only collect and process the personal data necessary for our archiving purposes, in accordance with data protection laws. See the privacy policy for more detail.