NUSU organised a referendum on Newcastle’s membership of the NUS after three hundred students signed a petition in twenty-one hours, the Newcastle student paper The Courier reported. The petition argued that Newcastle’s £52,000 membership fee of the NUS could be applied to more worthwhile projects and that the organisation was inefficient and undemocratic. The proposing student, Matt Wilson-Boddy, wrote:
…I attended the Conference and was disappointed to see many people ignore the real interests of students, particularly Newcastle students. The NUS has consistently shown its disregard of relevant student interests in favour of ineffective national campaigns based on party politics. Even the candidates running for various positions in the NUS at the conference recognised that the NUS movement is divided and fraught with internal conflict [… The] NUS claims that their Conference is one of the largest democratic events globally, however it consists of less than 900 students voting on motions on behalf of all the UK’s 7 million students. Worse, any motions that aren’t addressed in the time-frame of the Conference get relegated for discussion and by the NUS’s National Executive Council consisting of less than 30 people who then vote on these motions. That in effect amounts to each of these people being considered the voice for over 230,000 students per person. Subsequently, there is inefficient decision-making which does not reflect the desires and needs of the majority of students.
After voting finished, 989 Newcastle students wished to leave the NUS, quashing the 486 students wishing to remain. Dominic Fearon wrote on NUSU’s website:
It is clear that our students feel that the NUS no longer represents their views, does not prioritise correctly, and is not effective at achieving change. The current discontent amongst students nationally can be measured in the number of unions considering holding referenda on their membership. We hope that the NUS will acknowledge their shortcomings and will work to become the national union that students deserve and can identify with.
However, York’s campaigners voiced their approval on Facebook:
Students up and down the country are being shown what the NUS really is – a broken organisation which has no answers for the issues students face.
Over 23,000 students attend Newcastle University, like York a member of the prestigious Russell Group of universities. Newcastle is the second university student union to depart the national body this week. On Monday, the University of Lincoln announced its disaffiliation: 881 Lincoln students defeated 804 in their pursuit of separation. At 9:00am today, Exeter University, another member of the Russell Group, will announce its union’s results.