NUS Conference Day 1 with Hertfordshire

[Brad Johnson & Grainne O’Monghain | Deputy Editor & NUS Conference Delegate]

12:12: Colum McGuire [NUS VP Welfare] opened Conference and is Chair for the first session of today.

Session one is set to feature a welcome speech from a local campaigner, a keynote from Rick Edwards, broadcaster and writer and finally opening remarks from Toni Pearce, NUS President.   

12:21: A fantastic opening speech from Jay McKenna (@JayMcKenna87) welcoming Conference to Liverpool. The keynote talked of the culture of the city, the history of the port and the slave trade and the important role that immigrants played in Liverpool growth and development.

12:25: A moving tribute to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster given by McKenna. Talks of renewal of the city and urban redevelopment that has been seen within the city.

12:28: Presenter of Free Speech on BBC Three, Rick Edwards takes to the floor to stress the importance of voting in the UK General Election on May 7th 2015.  Edwards stressed the importance of elected representatives of using their platform to benefit those who elected them. He jested about common questions he is asked and being heckled as ‘Oi Oi T4 T4!’. Edwards has written a book about politics called ‘None of the Above’.

He states how a book written by a entertainments TV presenter can make politics more accessible to those who are usually less interested. Check out this article which is written by Rick Edwards. 

12:40: Rick raps up his opening speech and closes with saying that linking young people’s issue with the political context is key to increase engagement with young people and politics.

12:42: Toni Pearce takes to the floor to give her Presidents’ Opening Remarks. Toni states how although the student movement has changed since 2009, the UK and society has not changed in the same way.

12:48: Fantastic and key points at the work Students’ Union’s do for students at their Universities. Toni then went on to talk about the Broken Promises campaign and the impact that the government has had on the UK over the last five years.

12:51: Toni explains about the rising intolerance towards some students in UK is still prevalent. A round of applause erupted when she stated how politicians don’t understand the needs of students because they “are so remote from them”. A damning speech about the Conservative – Liberal Democrat Government is given by Toni.

12:55: Toni talked how the rich pay taxes and then get it straight back in unfair grants and support and said: “If you already have enough [money] then don’t take more when others are struggling to survive.”

12:56: Toni stated how David Cameron said to her face that the government would “not scrap EMA for college students”. She states how when she met Cameron in 2009 he might not have known who she was but he sure does now. She went on to talk about the broken promises made by the Liberal Democrats.

13:03: She closes with “The responsibility is yours!” As Toni raps up her opening remarks, we get ready for the Opening of Business and Adoption of the Order Paper CD4.

13:04: Opening of Business

13:10: National Conference ruled that Dogs are Better than Cats. A nice light hearted way to get the sessions started.

Session 2 begins at 13:15 which is the Priority Zone.

13:17: Membership Motion put forward by Rachael Mattey, NEC. A group of Union’s have requested to join or re-join NUS and the Conference get to vote to approve new members including Aston University who have requested to rejoin NUS. Conference gets the opportunity to approve the new members. PASSED, New Members are welcomed.

13:22: Priority Zone starts. There will be a 5 minute presentation from the National President, Toni Pearce followed by 10 minutes when delegates may ask questions on how policy has been implemented.

13:28: Toni takes to the floor to answer questions from delegates.

1. Can you talk us through your role in woman in leadership?

Toni talked of supporting woman in barriers that are in place. She supports SU’s to encourage more women to run their Students’ Union Elections. We set up at HE scheme for women that enables women to receive training on how to run in elections. This has now been expanded to more liberation groups such as Black, LGBT and Disabled students.

2. What have done for trans students this year?

Working with UCAS to change the way University applications work adding Trans into the list with Male and Female. “There is more that we can” and it should be a group effort to support trans students.

3. Why was £40000 spent on a campaign that was politically biased and not encouraging people to vote?

She stated how she will not make apologies for politicians and it just so happens that many of them were Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg broke the trust with students. It is important to hold these people to their promises and it is more than just about tuition fees. “I will not apologise for it” and it was a very small part of the budget, with the most amount being spent on Generation Vote, the apolitical campaign.

4. What have you done for international students this year?

It has been an awful year for international students. It has been hard and terrifying. We should talk about International Students more. The Home Office have clamped down on immigration and they have removed many VISA licenses from College and Universities in the UK. Students have suffered because institutions have “messed things up”. She believes that when an institution loses its license, students should have other place they can go and study.

5. What have you do to support the Black Students’ Officer?

She refused to talk about the personal conversations on stage. We need to have wider conversations about the abuse that people can get on social media. “It was disgusting and shameful” how the Black Students’ Officer was treated. Don’t give the media the opportunity to spin and create hate.

Vote to Approve the Report: Approved.

All Motions Can Be Found Here

13:40: Priority Zone Motion Debate

Motion 101: A New Politics for Students

Amendments 101a (Amendment Passed without against speech), 101b (Amendment Passed with against speech) , 101c (Amendment Passed without against speech), 101d – Campaign for National Single Transferable Vote (Amendment Passed without against speech), 101e (Amendment Passed without against speech), 101f (Amendment Passed without against speech) and 101g are given by delegates.

If 101g is passed, the main motion and all amendments made will be replaced by 101g. Essentially 101g would be a DELETE ALL AND REPLACE with 101g. 101g was voted against and fell. All amendments apart from 101g have been passed and therefore the motion has been amended.

There is now a vote on Motion 101 with amendments. Policy Passed

14:30: Fringe Break and for us, time for a Pizza Express 15:30: The Floor reopens with an aim to start in 5 minutes. 15:45: Education Opens! Reports from both Vice Presidents followed by questioning from delegates. 15:55: The Vice President Further Education takes to the stage for questions. As this is further education, we will only publish the questions and answers for the Higher Education VP.

16:06: The Conference votes to hear the Motion to Censure 402b against Joe Vinson, Vice President Further Education.

16:09: The censure falls after a bit of drama regarding the ruling of the Chair.

16:12: Report from Vice President Higher Education, Megan Dunn

16:17: Questions from delegates to Megan.

What are you doing to support care leavers?

Every year we send out access guidance to Higher Education Unions. This  year, we have asked what kind of support a Care Leaver needs throughout their degree and the quality of their student experience.

What have you done to combat the High Student Staff Ratio and Quality of Education in University?

Some institutions have high fluctuations of student numbers. We have seen some students sat on stairs in lecture halls. There have been issues with over subscription of student accommodation. Institutions are waiting for people to drop out so it balances out numbers, this is unacceptable. We don’t want to limit numbers of students going to University but institutions should pre plan for the amount of numbers of applicants. There is also an early warning system being put in place where SU’s can speak out against it.

Why did it take so long for NUS to oppose privatisation of QAA?

There is a review ongoing of Quality Assurance in England, Wales and NI. There has been talks to identify how relationships will continue. NUS will help make sure that student are part of the whole quality assurance system. It is not a tool for the government to privatise or make profit but it is a necessity to monitor higher education. If there were to be any privatisation, NUS would oppose.

What have you done to support LGBT and Trans facing estrangement?

Worked closely with LGBT officer all year on many issues. Provide access guidance, tailored to suit needs of students. If there are bits of it that aren’t work, please vote to make amendments to current policy. There is more work to be done on this issue however.

What have you done about the cuts affecting Universities?

Working towards pubic funding for higher education. We need to talk about the kind of funding our higher education needs. We need to get public money so there is public accountability.

What have you done for Black Students in narrowing the attainment gap and increasing the retention rates of BME students?

We are following the lead on the black students campaign and the Black Students Officer in prioritising this work. There is some great work going on around the UK. Record what is happening in one area and make steps to

What are you doing about the thirty year gap for post graduate loans?

When you put a 30 year ages gap, if you have child, what happens if you are made redundant, working really hard to bring that the attention fo anyone who will listen.

16:35: Report is approved.

16:41: Motion 201: Vocational Education with Amendment 201a – Passed

Amendment 201a – Forget me not – Passed

16:51: Motion 202: Changing FE without Amendment 202a – Passed

Amendment 202a (Delete and Add Amendment) – Falls

17:01: Motion 203: Doctor, Doctor, we need to talk about Postgraduates without Amendment 203a – Passed

Amendment 203a – Falls

17:10: Motion 204: Black students are NOT the problem, institutional racism is! – Passed

17:12: Motion 205: Students aren’t consumers but they do have rights – Passed

17:15: Motion 206: Changing the Structure of maintenance loans with Amendment 206a and 206b with Conference Resolves 4 removed. – Passed

Amendment 206a – Passed

Amendment 206b – Passed

A count has been called for Conference Resolves 4 to be removed. – The parts were removed following a vote of 276 – 200.

17:50: Education Zone is now closed.

This stream will be updated throughout the first day of conference so keep checking back for updates from NUS National Conference 2015.

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NUS Conference Day 1 with Hertfordshire