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BREAKING: Oxford to disaffiliate from NUS

Oxford University has voted to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students, with a margin of just 128 votes.

The outcome, which was announced outside the King’s Arms at 7.30pm on Wednesday evening, means that OUSU joins the student unions of St Andrew’s, Imperial College London and Southampton, among others, in being non-affiliated with the National Union of Students. 

The turnout for the referendum was 15.1% – 3464 votes. The Yes campaign received 1652 votes, while No received 1780. There were 32 abstentions.

Jack Matthews, who led the successful “Believe in Oxford” campaign, said: “I am delighted that Oxford has had the courage to stand up against the NUS and demand change.”

He expressed his hope for other Student Unions to “follow our lead and join the movement to bring about the NUS students truly deserve.”

Meanwhile, OUSU President Tom Rutland said he was “disappointed by the result”.

“I’m concerned about the impact it will have on OUSU and Oxford students. My time at OUSU has shown me that NUS membership is a real lifeline both for our elected officers and our student body”, he continued.

Rutland had headed the campaign in support of re-affiliation with the NUS.

He was keen for OUSU to reaffiliate soon. “Students are stronger when they work together – be it at a common room, university or national level – so I hope that OUSU will reaffiliate to NUS in the near future”. 

However, an anonymous Wadhamite criticised OUSU’s relationship to the NUS: “OUSU is redundant to Oxford students. We are very fortunate with our University and College welfare provision – nothing can surpass that. OUSU representatives have very little business or impact on our livesand so resort to delivering a heavily biased left-wing agenda to the NUS.”

A precedent for disaffiliation followed by reaffiliation has been set by Durham Students’ Union, who voted to disaffiliate in March 2010 but affiliated the following year. 

Rutland’s imminent successor as President, Louis Trup, pointed out that non-affiliation “gives a lot of people, especially those working in campaigns, a harder job”.

 He did, however, argue that “OUSU is up to the challenge”.

 “The people you have elected to serve in OUSU will still work hard for every Oxford student and we as a student body will have to step up and prove that we can go it alone”.

Nathan Akehurst, who attended the NUS conference, condemned the result:”It’s disappointing that we have lost our voice in the national student movement, and now have to face attacks on higher education alone, and lose the everyday support that NUS offers to ordinary students.

“However whilst I disagree with the result, it does demonstrate an NUS in crisis that is losing its members’ confidence. It is my fond hope that NUS can be fixed, and also that Oxford will develop links with other unions and coordinate nationally independently.”

 “No” campaign leader Matthews, who has attended the NUS conference four times and been involved with OUSU since 2008, thanked all those who supported campaign against re-affiliation.

“This was a grassroots campaign, and we couldn’t have achieved this amazing result without you – you’re all awesome.”

The “Believe in Oxford” campaign has been managed by Eleanor Sharman, who also proposed a successful motion at Oriel to disaffiliate from OUSU. She praised the efforts of her team in their “no” victory: “I feel so proud of Oxford for standing up and making its voice known. The “yes” team were dedicated and passionate, and deserved to do well.

“But all of us have an exciting time in front of us: we can make our own choices again, and we’ve got extra income to invest in those who need it most. I cannot wait to see where Oxford is headed.”

Oliver Carroll, a second year at St Anne’s, voted against reaffiliation. He stated: “Its own President didn’t even go to university. I don’t want to associate myself with an organisation which claims, but fails, to represent ordinary students, and is no more than a training ground for wannabe future Labour MPs.”

Carroll’s sentiment was reinforced by Michael Young, a student at Brasenose who voted against reaffilliation. He explained his decision: “I voted no because the NUS has repeatedly demonstrated that it doesn’t represent me or most ordinary students. OUSU is more than capable of acting on behalf of students in Oxford and voting no has encouraged NUS to become more representative in the future.”



  1. Patokrator

    21st May 2014 at 20:33

    I tend to agree with the “anonymous Wadhamite”. OUSU is a bunch of useless wasters the vast majority of the time. Very glad the vote turned out the way it did, maybe they can figure out a way to be more directly useful in Oxford now instead of swanning off all the time.

  2. Edmund Schluessel

    22nd May 2014 at 01:00

    Hi all. I’m one of the five NUS NEC members who’s tasked with representing the students’ unions in the South East and South West, among which is OUSU. The news that Oxford has voted to end its affiliation has just reached me.

    Firstly I have to note a certain measure of surprise — the vote at all is news to me, and while I know Mr Matthews a bit (we’ve corresponded on some matters around his website, theyworkforstudents.co.uk) as well as Mr Akehurst (we supported each other in the national elections) and I talked with members of the OUSU delegation at NUS’s national conference in April, nobody raised with me any concerns about OUSU’s affiliation or NUS’s usefulness. I remember seeing a blog post in the wake of conference from Mr Matthews where he stated his motivation for no longer supporting NUS was because his candidates didn’t do well in those elections, but that seems an awfully thin soup to feed OUSU’s 22,000 members on. I suspect the forces favoring disaffiliation may have failed to make an earnest effort to try to fix the problem before taking drastic action; this is disappointing if it’s the case.

    Second I have to take issue with Mr Carroll’s comments. It’s true that Toni Pearce, the president of NUS, has not attended university. The simple fact is though that about 70% of those people under NUS’s remit, that is post-16 students in the UK, are in further education, not higher education. Meanwhile this is an NUS where all but two among the National President and the Vice-Presidents are from higher education backgrounds. To say that NUS doesn’t represent higher education sufficiently is completely out of touch with the facts.

    Now, there are people in NUS who use it as step on the career ladder; recent president Wes Streeting for example has been selected for a Labour safe seat. That’s bad for NUS and it needs to stop. But it’s not going to change when people who feel it’s a problem tune out — and it’s definitely not going to change if the opposition to it centers itself around people who are just careerists for a different party.

    I very much want OUSU to re-join NUS at the earliest opportunity, but I also think it should rejoin on a healthier basis than it left: build from the ground up, let activists on the ground show the value of being part of a national union instead of on your own. It will be much better than if you re-enter as you left: through a game of bureaucrats, far removed from the lives of us on Earth.

  3. Annoyed

    22nd May 2014 at 07:34

    The contempt for democracy Mr. Schluessel and others have displayed in the wake of the result is suggestive of why students voted to disaffiliate.

    Many OUSU and Student Union officers from other universities are elected by similar or smaller turnouts than in this referendum. Hailing one as giving a mandate while dismissing the other as short-sighted is disrespectful.

    Whatever one’s political beliefs, I am sure most would agree with me that no mainstream political party would have acted in this way. Nick Clegg did not declare the British public misguided when his side lost the AV referendum, or declare an intent to have us vote again ‘as soon as possible’ till he gets the result he wants.

    Calling the actions of voters premature, as if Oxford students somehow lack the intellect to think about these big issues which the lofty Mr. Schluessel understands is arrogant and distasteful, as is the attempt to smear the leader of the winning campaign and allude, in some misty way, that some 1,780 were somehow influenced by the loss of Matthews’s slate in NUS elections.

    I think some of these officers should learn to be more mature about a setback.

    (I was not affiliated with any campaigns in the referendum or felt strongly for either side)

  4. another anonymous Wadhamite

    22nd May 2014 at 09:27

    Annoyed, I couldn’t agree more.

    Dear Edmund Schluessel,

    What makes you think that you represent students when you condescend and patronise an entire student body? I’m glad that Oxford students no longer have to pay for your hot meals.

    Are you really that much smarter than the entire population of Oxford students? We’re smarter than you, we’re better than you, pipe down, bon voyage, fuck off.

  5. KickWhenThey'reUp

    22nd May 2014 at 09:45

    “We’re better than you”: a top example of a claim disproving itself. Chase that shitty tail, Wadhamite!

    The reason those OUCA dicks can feed so many with such a thin soup is that they were full to bursting already, the self-satisfied fuckers. (Just look at the way they write; exactly like their Dad’s do each Saturday in yet another soon-to-be-unpublished letter to The Telegraph. “Arrogant and distasteful” – I didn’t realise sentences can wear slippers!)

    NUS, don’t leave alone with these smug, coke-huffing, venal, pink-cheeked Oxford pricks !!

  6. Annoyed

    22nd May 2014 at 10:07

    “Dad’s do”?

    At least I’m literate mate.

  7. KickWhenThey'reUp

    22nd May 2014 at 11:13

    Zing! Nasty hook you’ve got there bruh!
    I bet the people you meet just lap up remarks like that!

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