Birkbeck Students Union is currently affiliated with NUS (UK). Around 550 Student Unions are affiliated with NUS in England, Scotland and Wales. The NUS’s main objective is to make education free, fair and accessible to all students. 

There are two parts to NUS Membership:

  • NUS UK which is the political and campaigning part of NUS. This currently costs Birkbeck SU £7,455.90
  • NUS Charity which is the support system for the SU. This part enables us to use them as the returning officer for elections, Times of crisis support, and Championing Student Union Values. This costs £1,863.75. 

This referendum is to vote on whether the Birkbeck Students' Union should leave NUS UK. The SU are not planning to leave NUS Charity. 

Why leave? Why stay?

Why leave?

Birkbeck was one of the founding members of NUS. Today we have little to no communication with them and seem to be drastically undervalued as a student body. The Birkbeck Student Union does not receive benefits equal to the cost of membership to NUS. Students at Birkbeck should decide on whether they believe NUS is worth spending £7,369 a year for affiliation.


The benefits of Leaving:


1. We choose our direction

If we leave NUS, we get the chance to drive campaigns that directly impact Birkbeck students. NUS run national campaigns each year effecting all students, including those without membership. Their focus is on the big student issues like the cost of living and protecting Student Tenant rights. As the withdrawing of our membership takes away from national campaigns, the additional funds could then be put into our own that will directly impact Birkbeck Students. Campaigns could be created to end student Loneliness around campus, to fund the food pantry to stay open for longer periods of time, create new networks and finding ways to promote our SU on the main Campus. There is also the possibility that the networks could receive funding to grow these groups allowing for Birkbeck to become a more inclusive place. These benefits alone outweigh the benefits of our current membership. 


2. It Is not Value for Money 

We spend £7,369 a year to be a member of NUS. This allows us to actively partake in their democracy, use their resources and connect with other unions. However, as a union we are unable to afford to sending delegates to any conferences, unable to afford any courses on offer and unable to afford to use their central billing platform. As per the NUS value of membership page, their top value is financial return and their central billing platform. We do not have the money to use these services. The question then becomes, should we waste this money which could be spent on Birkbeck students?


3. Their current reputation

In the past there has been a benefit for most unions affiliating with NUS, however, in recent years NUS has stop providing cost effective support and opportunities for smaller unions like Birkbeck. The recent report published concerning allegations of antisemitism and their high number of complaints leading to their inability to gain Government funding, leads us to Understand why many unions have consider disaffiliating. It also seems NUS have struggled to move with the times, with their social media accounts lacking content and website information being out of date. With all this in mind, it seems in our best interest to take a step back from this organisation.


NUS may have value for large unions, but we are not that. We have a unique demographic which NUS dose not account for. We should be able to pick our direction, our campaigns and spend our money on our students.


Welfare Liberation Leader


Why stay?

Staying with the NUS offers significant advantages to students and their respective student unions, including Birkbeck SU. These main benefits include the  following:

1.Financial Support and Impact:

NUS UK has secured substantial financial support from the government, resulting in millions of pounds allocated to students for cost-of-living support and hardship funding. Birkbeck students have directly benefited from these funds. Long-term financial benefits, such as student exemptions on council tax, the introduction of postgraduate loans, and commitments to affordable and accessible student housing, are outcomes of NUS campaigning and representation. NUS UK has a track record of advocating for regulatory and legislative changes, like those related to sexual misconduct, that directly benefit students.

2. Representation and Influence:

Being part of the NUS provides access to a powerful national platform for student unions to advocate for issues that matter, including education, mental health, climate justice, and liberation. NUS offers resources, infrastructure, and coordinated influencing efforts, such as consultation responses and policy development, to help student unions drive positive change. Access to NUS National Conference and Liberation Conference allows representatives to engage with peers and debate important issues within a peer-led environment.

3. Campaign Resources:

NUS UK provides essential resources for local and national campaigns, including research, data, policy insights, campaign planning tools, and campaign assets. Training events and partnerships with NUS offer opportunities for skill development, peer-to-peer learning, and networking. Responsive support from NUS is available to student unions when they face difficult situations or urgent matters.

4. Media and Government Representation:

NUS UK has an extensive media reach, generating thousands of press articles on campaign issues, which allows student unions to highlight student concerns and perspectives. NUS represents student interests to the UK Government, engaging with officials, ministers, and agencies on various matters, including education and welfare. NUS's sector-level engagement involves collaborating with key organizations and leaders, such as Universities UK and the Quality Assurance Agency, to promote student concerns and shape policies.

5. Long-term and Cultural Impact:

NUS UK's campaigning efforts have led to long-term cultural and attitudinal changes, such as advances in LGBT+ rights and improved attitudes towards consent in education. The NUS has played a role in securing significant legislative changes over time, including protections for student renters and sharia-compliant loans.

6. Time-bound Benefits:

Recent achievements, such as securing government funding for cost-of-living support and student hardship during the pandemic, demonstrate the tangible benefits of NUS membership. NUS UK's advocacy has influenced important issues like tackling sexual violence and harassment on campuses and closing the black attainment gap.

By Education Student Leader


What does leaving mean?

Staying with NUS
  • NUS UK works on the basis of collective student power – therefore, Students’ Unions affiliating to NUS UK enables them as an organisation to speak on behalf of the nation’s students and champion issues on a national scale (the same way SU Officers do for our students on a local scale).
  • Currently playing 2.5% block grant (£9,319.00).
  • Birkbeck is entitled to send 3 candidates to NUS National Conference. All delegates attend, participate and vote in NUS conferences and events. Through these conferences, delegates from Birkbeck can shape, influence, take part in, support and hold to account NUS national campaigns. The SU cannot afford to send NUS delegates this year as this is an additional cost.

  • Birkbeck elected officers to attend the NUS lead & change conference, liberation conference. The SU cannot afford to send officers this year as this is an additional cost.

  • NUS UK has put together a webpage detailing its arguments for why students should vote to remain affiliated.


Leaving NUS
  • No longer be paying the 2.5% which could go towards helping Birkbeck Students experience.
  • Ending affiliation with NUS UK would mean The SU would no longer be able to, participate in the democracy of NUS UK, send student delegates to NUS National Conference to discuss and vote for NUS’ campaign priorities or NUS Full-Time Officers.
  • Additionally, the NUS’ collective power would be weakened by a Students’ Union disaffiliation. Over the last 100 years, NUS UK have lobbied and fought for policies and initiatives which have aimed at making Higher & Further Education more accessible. Objectively, they have been an active voice for students in the media and towards the government and other national bodies. NUS UK is a student-led and democratic organisation that gains enormous value from a diverse range of members.
  • The NUS has received reports of antisemitism which has lead to an independent inquiry to the organisation and their President's contract being terminated. Due to the antisemitic complaints, the government announced that it would be cutting ties with the NUS, therefore meaning they are no longer able to receive government funding, thus limiting their influence over socioeconomic/education policy.
  • The SU could re-affiliate in the future.
  • The SU would continue to use the NUS Charity membership, which would allow to use NUS as Returning Officer for elections or in times of crisis.
  • Totum is a discount card which is recommended by NUS UK, however, membership to NUS UK will not affect the SUs ability to sell Totum cards to its students.




© Birkbeck Students' Union

Birkbeck Students’ Union is a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) registered in England and Wales, charity number 1142614.

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