Reports from NUS Conferences 2024

This year's NUS delegates share their experience

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From April 15th-18th, nine student representatives attended the NUS' National and Liberation conferences. Three of them share their experiences below:

National Conference

Lillith

On Day 1, I attended the plenary with Pegs and we stood together for the Jewish grieving Psalm read out by one of the Palestinian Policy proposers for all who have lost their lives in the region. Then I attended to Palestinian workshop, and when NUS were about to cancel the workshop (due to the presence of Solutions Not Sides as prominent voices in the workshop), I proposed a 10 minute break to establish common ground between protesters and NUS staff before we discussed the policy. I worked alongside representatives from eight other SUs to propose realistic steps for NUS to take, such as demanding an immediate, permanent, unconditional ceasefire; and the need for food and aid to not only enter the region, but also not face antisocial activity such as blocking in ambulances. I spoke with a wide variety of individuals from SUs not just across England but also Scotland, to whom I expressed support for striking FE teachers, Wales, and notably Northern Ireland. During the policy workshops I took part in a? fishbowl activity where I criticised the effectiveness of the room's language and emphasised the importance of the conversation and the need for the NUS to commit to action. After the day I also met up with other delegates to unwind.

On Day 2, I attended the policy workshop for the Palestinian Policy and raised the limited acknowledgment of Islamophobia or Palestine (which was otherwise just one sentence). I also attended the Graduate Work Visa campaign workshop "Saving the Graduate Route", where I worked with a group of other delegates to propose strategies for advertising NUS polcies. I presented my workgroup’s idea, best summarised as "stats and emotions", which involved the use of social media algorithms to advertise the true impact of international students and their reasons for coming to study in the UK, combined with a collaborative nationwide march that SUs could contribute to in a way that protects international students from visa repercussions via safety in numbers and the engagement of home students as allies. Before the final policy discussion I spoke with another representative about cryptocurrencies and fraud. They asked me to explain some of the technical aspects, and I was able to share my research to help support theirs. At the policy discussion I spoke with some of the reps from Herriot-Watt before the conference ended and I headed home.

Liberation Conference

Nova

At the Conference I attended sessions including the LGBTQ+ caucus and a session on the Liberation Collective, where I learned how the Collective can help students to have an equal voice regardless of their Union's ability to support them. I've since been sharing this with others to help students access further support directly from NUS. The Conference has really shown me that there are a lot of common issues amongst Universities and Colleges, and that with a lot of people raising the same issues to higher up organisations, there can be significant changes made to best support people.

Emilio

Going to NUS was a game changer for me. It provided me with the opportunity to connect with diverse individuals and gain new perspectives on current issues. I voted in favor of changing the name of the Black Students’ section at the International Students’ Conference, which was a significant matter because there were several conflicts occurring: Black students who already identified as Black felt excluded because others, who were not Black, wanted to be included in that group. For instance, an Asian student is not Black, but they were being labeled as such. Consequently, both the Black students and the Asian students felt marginalized. Even when I first arrived in this country, I faced difficulties because I do not belong to any of those ethnic groups. It was problematic during registration when they labeled me as belonging to the Black ethnic group. Therefore, I advocated for a name change.*

At the International Students’ Conference, we discussed the reality that international students are a significant part of the UK economy, but unfortunately, the government does not support them as much as they would like. This affects everything. We also looked at how much an international student has to invest in the country to live well, and unfortunately, even after two or three years here, they often have to leave because they do not get an additional visa or any support. These were some of the issues we discussed, and we are hoping for changes in the future.

Overall, my experience at NUS was incredible. I made many friends, gained invaluable insights, and it truly changed my life. I would love to return someday. It was a great experience, and I am grateful for every moment of it.

* Editor's note: for some years now the NUS has used "Black" as "an inclusive term to denote people of African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean heritage". Whilst inclusive language necessarily evolves as unmet needs are identified, this has long been criticised as an unhelpful example that excludes both people who identify as black and those of other non-white heritage.

 

A massive thank you to all of this year's delegates, and we look forward to seeing the impact of their contributions over the coming year.

This article will be updated with reports from Choto, Daniil, Faran, Len, Lucy and Pegs as and when we receive them.

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