Creating an equal balance of student voices throughout all of Wales at conference
Which Students’ Unions have been involved in proposing?
Wrexham Glyndŵr Students' Union
What’s the issue and how does it affect students?
Currently students across North Wales are not having their voices heard as effectively as those in South Wales, due to the number of delegates present at NUS conferences. This means policies voted on and discussions had are being majority led by those delegates from South Wales. Those from institutions in North Wales are feeling underrepresented and that there is pressure to speak up for a small minority at a large scale, meaning Northern students might not being seeing the same benefit to the passing of motions in the same way those at Southern institutions would.
What changes would we like to see in society to change this?
The proposal is that delegate entitlement in Wales should be based on a more equitable calculation.
Throughout NUS practices, North Wales-based institutions would like to see a fair representation of student delegates from each institution across Wales. We feel the size of an institution, and number of students enrolled, should not be the only factor used to consider an institutions delegate entitlement. Although there may be fewer students to speak for, it doesn’t make these voices any less valued and shouldn’t change the impact these voices can have. More voices does not always mean more valuable input, and if each SU has an equal chance to speak and vote, the outcome will seem more fair and well-rounded.
This would be of a huge benefit to smaller institutions, especially in North Wales.
Steering Committee Notes
The steering committee have made some notes below to ensure delegates understand what this policy means and what will happen should the policy pass.
- NUS is governed by its Articles of Association and Rules. Conference delegate entitlement is found in the NUS Rules. Steering have provided a factsheet with the relevant rules.
- NUS’ Rules are owned by National Conference. For this policy to take effect the rules would need to be changed at National Conference.
- There are implications for wider NUS rules on delegate entitlement relating to National Conference. These are discussed below.
Therefore passing this policy would give an instruction to the steering committee and officer to bring a rules change proposal to a future National Conference.
It is also noted that a group of policies have been proposed to NUS National Conference on NUS’ transparency and democracy. Included in these are a proposal looking at representation in English regions and another proposing an organising council based around devolved nations and regions. This will have been discussed prior to Wales Conference at National Conference. Steering consider that a report back on the discussion and outcome of this would be relevant to a debate on North Wales representation.
In addition the Democratic Procedures Committee are going to launch consultation work on democratic representation and possible rules changes to bring to conference next year. It is suggested that any outcomes of this policy proposal are brought into that process as an element of any rules changes.
How does it impact FE students / Apprentices?
Please refer to factsheet for student numbers which is broken down into FE and HE numbers. Please note the National Society of Apprentices currently has a flat number of delegates they are able to send to NUS Wales Conference and NUS National Conference.
From the proposers:
The proposal also applies to FE Students’ Unions. Therefore, having an equal number of FE and HE delegates across the board, would show fairness and equality throughout the post-16 education sector.
How does it impact on International Students, Postgraduate Students, Part-Time and Mature Students?
There is some data in the fact sheet on part-time numbers. It is difficult to make an assessment without further insight. Steering suggests that any debate or workshop should ensure these groups of students have specific opportunities to speak.
From the proposers: Each institution’s numbers of International, PG, Part-time and Mature student intakes differ, with some being larger than others. Therefore, if the numbers of delegates at conference are fixed, there is more of an opportunity for students from these demographics to be represented as some SUs are only allowed 2 delegates
How does it impact on black, disabled, LGBT+, trans and women students?
Steering suggests that the voices of black, disabled, LGBT+, trans and women students are specifically called on in any debate or workshop to gain further insight on the impacts.
The proposers have said that: For Liberation conference, NUS has a fixed delegate entitlement for each Union, and therefore is equal across the country. Therefore, if there was to be fixed delegate entitlement per Union for National conferences, this would allow for every students voice to be heard, from a broad range of student demographics
Does this apply across the UK or specifically in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?
The proposal has a specific focus on representation of students in Wales. The proposers have indicated when filling this in the benefits to North Wales delegates and this has been included within the main body of the proposal above. Delegates should consider, when discussing the proposal, the following implications UK wide.
- Delegate entitlement based on student numbers is utilised at NUS National Conference, NUS Scotland Conference and NUS-USI Conference as well as NUS Wales Conference
- Any change to delegate entitlement at Wales Conference would impact members based in Wales only. This would mean Wales conference would have a different representation model from the above conferences. The proposal would not change delegate entitlements in NUS Scotland or NUS-USI Conference.
- A change to National Conference delegate entitlement would have wider implications for members in other parts of the UK. This would require further discussion, consent and ratification by those members and at National Conference.
To require policy proposers to consider the impact their proposed policy will have on Northern and Southern Institutions through an impact assessment.
For Part-Time students to be considered equally to Full-Time students in regards to delegate entitlement calculations.
For NUS Wales Steering Committee to consider recommendations regarding changes to the delegate entitlement calculation principles for future NUS Wales Conferences. These recommendations include the introduction of a higher fixed minimum and maximum number of delegates per institutions to ensure more equitable representation for each Union. For the allocation per institution between these minimum and maximum levels to be calculated proportionally to the number of students at a given institution.
For a representative from each Students’ Union in Wales to be invited to engage and partake in the democracy review to be undertaken by NUS Wales.