NUS Referendum 2022

The SU's Board of Trustees have called an NUS UK affiliation referendum.

On Wednesday 09 November 2022, the Students' Union Board of Trustees resolved to call a referendum on The SU's affiliation to NUS UK. The question wording is: Should The SU Bath be affiliated to the National Union of Students UK (NUS UK)? All members will have the opportunity to vote on their preference via online secret ballot. Voting will be open from 12:00 midday 17 November, until 12:00 midday 24 November.

View the results of the Referendum. 

On this page

The Referendum is now closed. 

Introduction FAQs

What is the National Union of Students (NUS)?

The National Union of Students (NUS) is a confederation of around 600 students' unions, amounting to more than 95 per cent of all higher and further education unions in the UK and represents the interests of more than seven million students. NUS is a voluntary membership organisation which carries out campaigns and lobbying activity on behalf of students and its member students' unions to make a difference to the lives of students.

The NUS is more than just one organisation - it is made up of separate companies:

  • NUS (UK) is the campaigning organisation that is responsible for championing student issues on a national level.
  • NUS Charity is separate and exists to support the development of students' unions.

Read more about NUS on their website.

What are the types of NUS membership?

The term ‘affiliation to NUS’ can be ambiguous since there are different levels of membership related to the two separate companies of which the NUS is comprised. These are the ‘National Union of Students (UK)’ and ‘NUS Students’ Unions Charitable Services Ltd’.

The differences between the components of the NUS and its tiered membership system are outlined below:

  • National Union of Students (UK) membership – This is a membership to the student voice organisation ‘NUS (UK)’ which delivers campaigns and national representation, currently costing SUs 2% of their block grant. To end membership at NUS UK, students must vote on affiliation by secret ballot (a referendum).
  • NUS Students’ Unions Charitable Services Ltd membership – Also known as ‘NUS Charity’, this is a membership to the students’ union development and support aspect of NUS, currently costing SUs 0.5% of their block grant. The SU's referendum is not in relation to its affiliation to NUS Charity.

You also may have heard of NUS Services Limited (NUSSL) - this is the trading element of NUS or ‘buying consortium’ where SUs procure supplies for bars and entertainment via collective buying power facilitated through the NUS. This is automatically included within the NUS Charity membership (it is a social enterprise subsidiary of NUS Charity). Alternatively, there is a £2,000 flat rate outside of NUS Charity membership.

More information on the terms of membership with NUS can be found here.

Please note: For this referendum, students will vote on The SU’s affiliation to ‘NUS UK’ only because it has the most significant implications financially and politically. The NUS Charity membership is an operational and commercial affiliation and is not included in the proposed referendum.

What is our current membership to NUS?

The SU Bath currently has a 'dual membership', which means we are affiliated to the NUS (UK) and NUS Charity. There are separate fees for being affiliated to either of these elements of NUS. The SU Bath currently pays fees to be affiliated to both.

Read more about our membership with NUS here on our main NUS webpage.

Why are we having a referendum?

1) We are student-led

As a member-led organisation that believes that students should shape the communities they are part of, it is important for The SU to recognise that students’ stance on affiliation to the NUS is critical and may fluctuate as time passes. In order to disaffiliate from the ‘NUS UK’ element of the National Union of Students, it is good practice for students at the member organisations to vote on affiliation via an all-student secret ballot (a referendum).

You may be aware that we had a NUS Affiliation Referendum back in March 2021. You can read more about this referendum on our archived page.

2) Recent NUS news

Recent news has raised some questions regarding the reputation of NUS UK as an organisation. Most notably, a recent independent inquiry has led to the dismissal of the NUS President, Shaima Dallali, due to allegations of antisemitism. There is a subsequent inquiry taking place regarding the organisation's wider response to antisemitism claims. Read the NUS' statement on this matter here.

This news has made international headlines and illustrates that many consider this as a critical point in time for NUS. There have been similar related stories this year; in May 2022, the UK Government cut ties with the NUS due to concerns about antisemitism within the organisation. Read here a press release from the Department of Education. The fact that the Government has suspended engagement with NUS UK can be interpreted to be damaging to their power and influence as a campaigning organisation - however, NUS UK maintain that this a temporary cutting of ties.

Consequently, some student organisations across the country are questioning the efficacy of NUS UK. In a recent statement, the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) says they respect NUS’ decision to dismiss Dallali as president but believe the issue doesn’t stop with one individual, and are awaiting the findings of the wider inquiry to determine if NUS’ plans to address antisemitism go far enough. Meanwhile, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) have released a statement in support of the dismissed president and have labelled NUS as "no longer fit for purpose", and are calling on Islamic societies across the country to initiate NUS disaffiliation campaigns. We have also received reports that a number of other Students' Unions are also planning or preparing for affiliation referenda.

As the Students' Union, we have not yet received any requests from students regarding an affiliation referendum - but we wanted to proactively respond to the national conversation and give our students a chance to have their say ahead of our next round of funding decisions.

3) NUS Cost and Impact

It is commonplace for students to wonder whether Students' Unions should affiliate to NUS UK due to a range of factors - these can be political, social, or economic.

Last year, we worked with our Debating society to host a debate regarding our affiliation to NUS UK. Some of the discussion points in the debate touched on the extent of NUS' value and impact, as well as the costs. For example, some students question if the £30,000 per year membership fee we pay could be better spent elsewhere. 

NUS Affiliation Debate (March 2021)

Referendum Process

All SU referenda must be in accordance with Articles 28 to 31 of The SU’s Articles of Governance. The articles state that a referendum may be called on any issue by a resolution of the Trustees.

In line with our Articles of Governance, our members have been given 7 days' notice ahead of voting opening, and voting will be open for 7 days. The results will be shared with members within 24 hours of the polls closing.

Official question wording

“Should The SU Bath be affiliated to the National Union of Students UK (NUS UK)?”

Please note: For this referendum, students will vote on The SU’s affiliation to ‘NUS UK’ only because it has the most significant implications financially and politically. The NUS Charity membership is an operational and commercial affiliation and is not included in the proposed referendum.

Key dates

  • Notice of Referendum: 10 November 2022
  • Voting Opens: 17 November 2022 (12:00 midday)
  • Voting Closes: 24 November 2022 (12:00 midday)
  • Results Announced: 25 November 2022

Call for Agents

As standard practice for SU referenda, ahead of voting opening, we are looking to put together two teams of campaigners from both sides of the argument about whether The SU should or shouldn’t be affiliated. We are requesting that any member with an interest in our affiliation to NUS UK (whether you are a NUS-sceptic or feel strongly that we should remain affiliated) gets in touch with us at:

If you’d like to know more, please drop us an email. Once we have agents come forward, we will facilitate the opportunity for you to work together and with SU Officers. Alongside agents, we can organise a live debate event for members to attend to find out more about this issue.

What does remaining affiliated or disaffiliation look like?

The below table summarises the key points related to what remaining affiliated or disaffiliating from NUS UK looks like. There are arguments on both sides relating to The SU's affiliation to NUS UK. Students are encouraged to come to their own conclusions on whether the points below are advantages or disadvantages.

Staying with NUS UK Leaving NUS UK
  • 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).
  • The SU Bath is currently paying £30k a year fee (2% of our block grant with the maximum cap of £30k applied) for membership.
  • The SU Bath is entitled to six National Conference delegates each year, as well as, six Liberation Conference delegates (Disabled student delegate, Black student delegate, Black Woman delegate, LGBT+ delegate, Trans delegate and Women's delegate).
  • All delegates attend, participate and vote in NUS conferences and events. Through these conferences, delegates from Bath can shape, influence, take part in, support and hold to account NUS national campaigns.
  • Current NUS campaigns include; 'Cost of Living Crisis' and ‘New Vision for Education’.
  • Delegates also elect, work with and hold to account the NUS Full-time Officer (FTO) executive team.
  • Thousands of students have participated in surveys carried out by NUS which help identify national priorities.

NUS UK have put together a webpage detailing their arguments for why students should vote to remain affiliated.

  • The SU Bath would no longer be paying £30k in membership fees to NUS UK. 
  • Ending affiliation with NUS UK would mean The SU Bath 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.
    • Send delegates to NUS Liberation Conference and engage in national liberation campaigns with NUS.
    • Access campaign materials or campaign support provided by NUS.
    • Have an avenue through NUS for national representation on issues that affect our students.
    • Have our SU Officers or delegates participate on NUS committees or run for NUS Full-Time Officer positions.
  • 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 are student-led and a democratic organisation who gain enormous value from a diverse range of members.
  • The SU could re-affiliate in the future.
  • The SU would still benefit from everything associated with NUS Charity (detailed below).

Regardless to our affiliation to NUS UK...

  • The SU Bath still benefit from a separate membership with NUS Charity (which includes: Union development resources, trading support, election support services, Quality Students’ Union, Communities of practice, crisis support and more.)
  • Students can access ‘Totum’ discount cards.
  • Networking can occur between our SU Officers and officers across the UK.
  • The SU can still access the trading element of NUS (NUSSL) and therefore can access the collective buying consortium (allowing us to purchase cheaper food and drink supplies for the Plug & Tub).
  • The SU can still access schemes such as ‘Green Impact’ and ‘Best Bar None’.