NUS Reforms - FAQS

We will keep updating this page so if you have any other questions that haven’t been answered please email [email protected] or book in for a pre-conference session for NUS Reps. You can register for pre-conference sessions on this page.

Put simply, because members voted for them. Across all of our democratic conferences over the past couple of years delegates have voted to transform the way that members engage with NUS. Alongside ideas from Democratic Procedures Committee and the learning that’s taken place since NUS UK’s last reforms in 2019. It’s important to note that these reforms are not borne out of crisis or necessity. We could get by staying the same. But the world and the student movement are changing, and if we want our national union to be equipped to fight for students on this new terrain it’s important we do the same. These reforms represent a genuine shared desire to future proof our union and our movement. 

The full package of reforms will be taken to members to vote on over our conference season this spring (March-April) and then to our members meeting in June. After that we would begin the work of implementing them, which would be phased and culminating in the next election cycle in 2026 where NUS England FTOs would be elected and eventually take up office on 1 July 2026. Over this next two-year period we’d be developing the membership structures within each nation and in liberation that work best for their own context, testing new democratic and engagement processes with members, and bringing in new ways of working that enable us to operate as a newly reformed NUS UK. This will be detailed in our transitional arrangements (to be published in March 2024).  

The reforms that have been proposed would simplify this process in the future so that Reps at conferences would decide on the democratic reforms and the company law meeting on corporate reforms, enabling us to be more agile and responsive to the needs of each.

The elected leadership of each nation would continue to represent their own members on devolved issues, which include education, housing and health policy, and members will continue to be represented by the full Officer Executive on all other matters. It will only change in two ways; firstly that Presidents in devolved nations will be empowered to directly represent their own members in Westminster, and secondly that where nations will work together on reserved matters a member of the Officer Executive will be assigned to lead on this area of work and seek input from all four nations in doing so. 

SUs in England will for the first time have an officer team focused specifically on England, which means dedicated resource for representation on issues that are consistently their priorities, and for more focused member engagement too. 

There are no changes being proposed to the affiliation fee and the reforms that have been designed won’t increase costs. The proposals have retained NUS principles of financial sustainability that were established in the last reforms of 2019. 

The conflation of UK and England means there are currently lots of inefficiencies in the way we run. The proposed structure and the clarity it brings means that resource can be allocated in a more direct way across NUS; into the four nations, with separate resource for UK wide infrastructure. The allocation of budgets will continue to be scrutinised and agreed at members meetings. For any UK-wide campaigning, each nation will contribute resource, making it more equitable as well as efficient.  

Our biggest strength as a movement is in our size and we need to learn from, support and collaborate on work happening across our different nations. We’ll definitely continue to have a programme of events and activities for cross nation working, but these will be spaces for campaigning, learning and developing ideas together, not policy making spaces. 

There is a team of seven full time officers, the Officer Executive, elected to lead NUS UK, who all take equal responsibility for the organisation and work as a collective to deliver for members. Sharing the responsibility across the team is a fairer and healthier way to lead the national union. The team will appoint an Officer Executive Lead who will provide leadership and ensure effective decision making can take place. A Chair of the Board will also be appointed from the Officer Exec who will be responsible for corporate governance.  

There is a clear call from the movement to do targeted and specific work on the issues that international students face at a national level, which is also reflected in the policies across our democratic conferences. For international student voice and representation to be strengthened in NUS UK while remaining financially sustainable (i.e. not increasing the overall number of roles) we are proposing the International Student Voice project comprising two initiatives; developing an international student-led policy and influencing body within the HE sector, and a leadership programme for international students and sabbatical officers.

This establishes a pipeline in NUS UK for both international student leaders and the issues faced, balances the different needs of our membership, and provides us with a stronger understanding of further reforms that may be needed in this space which we will bring back to members. 

Another strong message received from members is to safeguard Further Education representation, as without specific consideration the reforms risk being HE-weighted. For this reason, the proposals retain a VP FE and increase the number of NUS Reps from FE and apprentices. NUS UK and NUS Charity are currently embarking on work to establish and strengthen students’ unions in FE and work-based learners. Through this we hope to develop an understanding of further reforms that may be required and bring these back to conference. 

A policy outlining these proposals is now going to each conference where members will provide a political steer on whether reforms in principle achieve their goal of better empowering and engaging them as constituents i.e. delivers autonomy and agility to response to their own needs. The reforms are then ultimately voted on at National Conference. If they pass then members will also vote at a Members meeting in June.  

We’re keeping the policy discussion process as close to our normal process as possible. The difference is that because these policies contain a formal change to NUS’ structures based on member feedback and legal advice they cannot be changed in the same way at conferences. The Democratic Procedures Committee have agreed a process which includes:  

  • A version of the reform proposals is presented to each conference to discuss, debate and vote on. 
  • Workshop sessions at each conference will focus on the Rules for each conference. These aren’t being proposed at this time so the workshops will feed into the development of how each space operates. 

Ultimately these reforms involve proposed changes to NUS’ articles of association. NUS is a company so it is NUS’ members (SUs/SAs/Colleges) that have the power to amend the articles in a General Meeting (company law meeting). Articles relating to student voice have to be passed by National Conference too. 

Yes, Democratic Procedures Committee agreed the following as a way to facilitate debate within NUS’ articles of association. This relates to Article 14.2.7 which gives National Conference co-decision making powers with a General meeting to amend the articles (this is called “entrenchment”). 

The Democratic Procedures Committee interprets Article 14.2.7 as follows: 

  • To exercise “joint responsibility”, the proposed changes to NUS UK’s Articles of Association relating to “Student Voice” activity must be presented to NUS National Conference (defined in the Articles as the “UK Conference”) before the changes (with any amendments agreed as below) go on to be adopted by NUS UK’s members by special resolution (under the Companies Act 2006). 
  • As expressly noted in Article 14.2.7, in this context “Student Voice activity” means proposed amendments to Articles 9 – 13 and 33 – 34. Any other amendments are not within the scope of Article 14.2.7 and may be made solely by special resolution. 
  • To progress, the relevant proposed changes to the Articles of Association must be approved by a simple majority of votes cast at National Conference.  
  • The proposed changes will not be amendable at the National Conference stage, but: 
    • The procedure at National Conference should enable delegates to share their views on the proposed changes in line with procedures for discussion and debate contained in NUS UK’s Articles and Rules and any further procedures laid down by the DPC; 
    • The board is asked to ensure that consultation takes place as appropriate with NUS Liberation, NUS Scotland, NUS Wales or NUS-USI, in relation to changes affecting them; and that in advance of formal proposals being laid before conferences, adequate consultation takes place with NUS UK’s members and, to the extent that is practicable, with Conference Delegates. 
    • Motions passed by the National Conference will be phrased so that they delegate authority to the NUS UK Board to make any final updates or amendments to the proposed articles, to be put to a General Meeting of NUS UK’s members (for adoption by special resolution), considering: 
  • The views expressed by NUS National Conference per the vote and any minutes/notes of discussion; and 
  • Their duty to promote the purposes of NUS UK set out in Article 2 of its Articles of Association.”