Policy Formation Process

“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

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

  • 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 

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 feed in policy proposals to conference in advance about different topics.

This year in addition to submissions we’ll be running an in-person campaigning and organising event to start the thinking process.

Policy submissions focus on three fundamental questions

  • What’s the issue and how does it affect students? 
  • What are the changes we want to see in society to make this happen? 
  • What action could NUS, students and SUs take to work on this?  

We also ask proposers to think about the impact of the policy proposal across different groups of students and across liberation groups, education settings, and impact on devolved settings. The exact policy template is being assessed and refined by the Democratic Procedures Committee and Steering Committees (groups of students elected by conference to oversee procedures) but is likely to be similar to last year and the above will be the focus.

This will then be followed by sessions over Zoom open to anyone who has made a proposal or any interested student to work with the elected committees to work these up into proposals and debate guides for conference. So submissions really are the starting point of the policy journey rather than the end point.

These are then voted on by delegates to prioritise what will go to conferences.

In the run up to conference we’d encourage NUS Reps to talk about the proposals with peers in your Students’ Union or Association as well as other delegates locally, regionally and nationally.

2. Generating policy proposals at conference

The sessions at conference have been designed to support you to have an in-depth exploration of the conference themes, in order to:

  • 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 / Associations to take action, and might support students to take action, to try to make the solution a reality.  

This process will enable us to finalise policy proposals

3. Bringing it together

Then, as a collective group there will be time to consider what has happened in workshops, to bring through key themes and to look at the final write-up.

4. What happens after conference

Voting will be live after the conference allowing NUS Reps to consider and cast your votes.

Once policies have been voted on the new NUS officer team will harvest all the information from sessions, to take forward.