How Decision-making Works - Liberation Conference 2023

Welcome to Liberation Conference! We are committed to the decision-making process being as participatory as we can make it, gathering input from all of our delegates. 


What is Liberation Conference? 

NUS Liberation Conference brings together Black*, Disabled, LGBT+, Trans and Women Students together to build communities of activists and plan our campaigning work. Our conferences serve as a space to shape upcoming priorities for students, students' unions and NUS.

*Black is an inclusive term NUS uses to denote people of African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean heritage.

What do we want to achieve at Liberation Conference? 

We want to agree on our key 3 policies for the year. We intend to do that by making considered decisions in a way that aligns with Unions’ values of collectivism, inclusiveness and solidarity.

Who comes to Liberation Conference?  

Each Union may send a maximum of six delegates. The six delegate spaces are reserved for delegates who self-define into the groups which are represented at Liberation Conference.

Flow of Liberation Conference: 

In summary the first day of conference is all about discussing our positions and forming policies. Day two is about moving to action and debating the final product. 

Read the agenda here  

Where/how to access support while at Liberation Conference: 

It’s important to us that conference is as supportive and accessible to all delegates as possible. Being in an environment with hundreds of other folks can be overwhelming. If you need to access support you can speak to the delegate experience team (ask at info point or go to their dedicated zone).

How do lots of people make decisions together?  

The beauty of our conferences is having so many delegates representing so many experiences and views from across the student movement. We are all passionate about improving the lives of students and making change in the world, but we don’t always agree on the best focus or solutions!

So how do we make decisions together?  

We don’t expect that we will all agree on the best outcomes by the end of conference, but we do expect that we’ll get to the best collective decisions based on listening to each other, including all voices, and then voting on our 3 key policy areas.

We’ve designed conference in a way that supports you to hear from each other and explore a policy area with other interested delegates in order to develop a proposal for a policy (with options) which we will vote on on the last day.  

We want to ensure that all voices are heard in the process of designing our policies so we will use a model for facilitation based on the idea of Participatory Decision Making.  

“At the point of encounter there are neither yet ignoramuses nor perfect sages; there are only people who are attempting, together, to learn more than they now know.” 

― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed 

“Only through diversity of opinion is there, in the existing state of the human intellect, a chance of fair play to all sides of the truth.” 

― John Stuart Mill, On Liberty 

“How can I enter into dialogue if I always project ignorance onto others and ignore my own? How can I enter into dialogue if I regard myself as a case apart from other men?” 

― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed 

“Learning is a process where knowledge is presented to us, then shaped through understanding, discussion and reflection”  

― Paulo Freire


Principles of participatory decision-making 

We have some key principles that underline participatory decision-making at conference: 

  • Student Control: we want you to be able to have a direct impact on the policy decisions, and also on how they are made.  
  • Transparency: we want you to have a clear understanding of the process you are participating in and what will happen as a result of your involvement.  
  • Inclusiveness: we want you to be able to fully participate in the process, so please let us know if anything is getting in the way of you being able to join in.  
  • Considered Judgement: we will make sure that you have the opportunity to hear both technical information, such as context about policy issues, and also the views of other people before making any decision. 

How decisions are made before, at and after conference 

The sessions at conference have been specifically designed to enable everyone here to join in with shaping our understanding of the problems we face, the way we want society to be, and the action we want to take to make change. There has also been a lot of work that has happened before conference to feed in ideas, and policies will be finalised after conference ends. 

We want to be really transparent about how this all works, so below is a breakdown of those stages.

1. Feed-in before conference

Individual students and groups via their students’ unions have fed in policy proposals to conference in advance about different topics.  

Their submissions follows our standard policy template, answering the following questions in 700 words or less: 

  • What’s the issue and how does it affect students? 
  • What are the changes we want to see in society to make this happen? 
  • How does it impact FE and Apprentices 
  • How does it impact students in liberation groups 
  • How does it impact intl students, PG students, Mature and Part Time Students?  
  • How would it impact small and specialist SUs?  
  • Would there be different consequences across the UK? 
  • What action could NUS, students and SUs take to work on this?  

2. Generating policy proposals at conference

The sessions at conference have been designed to support you to have an in-depth exploration of one of the 5 key themes. 

The sessions are designed so that we can: 

  • Hear important context and technical information about the issue so we understand it.  
  • Establish a shared understanding of what the problem is, how it affects students and how it affects different students differently. 
  • Work together to understand different opinions of what the solution to the problems we’ve identified might be. 
  • Come up with ways that NUS might take action, might support students unions to take action, and might support students to take action, to try to make the solution a reality.  

This process will enable DPC to create policy proposals.  

3. Debating policy proposals at conference

The second half of Day 2 of conference will have space for debating the policy proposals we have created in a formal way.  

This is how debates work: 

  • First we’ll hear a summary of the workshop outcomes 
  • Then we’ll hear from people involved in the proposal 
  • We’ll discuss anything that is being voted on specifically as an option/amendment 
  • Then it’s open to the floor for comment by delegates 

4. What happens after conference

Voting will be live from the end of Liberation Conference until Tuesday 25 April 12:00pm. This will give delegates time to further consider the policies and digest in full. If you missed the live debates you can catch up on these on YouTube. 

Once policies have been voted on the NUS officer team will harvest all the information from sessions, including campaigns workshops on day two, to take forward. 

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