Governance of the National Union of Students (United Kingdom)

Aaron Porter is a former president of the National Union of Students

The governance of the National Union of Students, the organisation which is the main confederation of students' unions within the United Kingdom, has recently undergone radical reform. The article explains the background to the reform process and the current system of governance.


Debates over governance reform dominated the National Conference of 2008. Reform proposals were rejected in 2008 in a vote where 692 voted for the proposals and 358 voted against, but a two-thirds majority was required. The Guardian characterised the reform proposals as 'Blairite'. Critics of the reforms characterised them as an attack on the democratic structure of the organisation. that would lead to a reduction in minority representation. Supporters argued that the reform proposals would replace an outdated system of governance and lead to a more innovative corporate structure. Two extraordinary conferences were held to ratify the reform proposals a measure criticised as undemocratic given that there is no requirement for students unions to hold cross-campus elections for extraordinary conferences. The first extraordinary conference was held in Leicester where the reforms passed. The second conference was held in Wolverhampton where 614 delegates at the conference voting in favour of the proposals and 142 voted against them.

Full-time officers

The current president of the National Union of Students is Larissa Kennedy. The other positions are vice-president higher education, vice-president further education, and vice-president liberation and equality. Each vice-president leads a distinct zone within the organisational structure of the NUS. There are also a president for each nation, the president for NUS Wales, the president for NUS Scotland, and the president for NUS-USI.

President VP higher education VP further education VP union development VP welfare VP society & citizenship VP liberation & equality
2010/2011 Aaron Porter Usman Ali Shane Chowen Ed Marsh Ben Whittaker Susan Nash
2011/2012 Liam Burns Usman Ali Toni Pearce Ed Marsh Pete Mercer Dannie Grufferty
2012/2013 Liam Burns Rachel Wenstone Toni Pearce Vicki Baars Pete Mercer Dannie Grufferty
2013/2014 Toni Pearce Rachel Wenstone Joe Vinson Raechel Mattey Colum McGuire Dom Anderson
2014/2015 Toni Pearce Megan Dunn Joe Vinson Raechel Mattey Colum McGuire Piers Telemacque
2015/2016 Megan Dunn Sorana Vieru Shakira Martin Richard Brooks Shelly Asquith Piers Telemacque
2016/2017 Malia Bouattia Sorana Vieru Shakira Martin Richard Brooks Shelly Asquith Rob Young
2017/2018 Shakira Martin Amatey Doku Emily Chapman Ali Milani Izzy Lenga Rob Young
2018/2019 Shakira Martin Amatey Doku Emily Chapman Ali Milani Eva Crossan Jory Zamzam Ibrahim
2019/2020 Zamzam Ibrahim Claire Sosienski Smith Juliana Mohamad-Noor Erica Ramos Eva Crossan Jory
2020/2022 Larissa Kennedy Hillary Gyebi-Ababio Salsabil Elmegri Sara Khan

National Executive Council

The National Executive Council (NEC) is NUS’ interim decision making body between meetings of the union's National Conference. It comprises elected representatives and officers from each of NUS’ Zones, Student Sections, Liberation Campaigns and Nations as well as 15 individually elected members and the National President.

Block of 15

The 15 individually elected members are known as the "Block of 15"/ The Block of 15 is made up of 15 members five of which are reserved for members of further education institutions.

National Executive Council – Block of 15
2010/2011 Lynne Brown† Thea Graham† Joshua McKenzie† John Peart† James Lee Pickin†
Mark Bergfeld Thomas Graham Danielle Grufferty Sophia James Fatima Junaid
Pete Mercer Liam Preston Javed Anjum Sheikh Ryan Wain Rachel Wenstone
2011/2012 Ruby Hirsch† Nes Cazimoglu Michael Chessum Lauren Crowley Matt East
Mark Bergfeld Taylor Kane† Aaron Kiely Joe Oliver Surya Prakash Bhatta
Mary Prescott† Joshua Rowlands† Daniel Stevens Stevie Wise Rachel Wenstone
2012/2013 Alex Causton-Ronaldson Michael Chessum Caroline Dangerfield Reni Eddo-Lodge Roshni Joshi†
Jamil Keating† Jake Kitchener Emma Meehan Aiden Mersh Surya Prakash Bhatta†
Mark Sewards Matt Stanley† Joe Vinson† Mike Williamson Jamie Woodcock
2013/2014 Ben Dilks James Mcash Peter Smallwood Paul Abernathy Charles Barry
Chris Clements Jessica Goldstone Harry Fox Matt Stanley Edmund Schluessel
Kirat Raj Singh Marc McCorkell Rosie Huzzard Jeni-Marie Pittuck Rhiannon Durrans
2013/2015 Charlotte Agran Dario Celaschi† Daniel Cooper† Clifford Fleming Hannah Graham
Aaron Kiely† Shakira Martin Michael Rubin Vonnie Sandlan Edmund Schluessel
Amy Smith† Abdi-Aziz Suleiman Zarah Sultana Miki Vyse Poppy Wilkinson
2015/2016 Sabrin Adam† Haaris Ahmed† Rachel Holland Sahaya James Jordan Kenny
Anna Lee Izzy Lenga Beth Redmond† Barnaby Raine Malaka Shwaikh
Michael Segalov Dan Slavin Areeb Ullah Hannah Webb Poppy Wolfarth
2016/2017 Angela Alexander Siôn Davies† Hassun El Zafar Matt Grange Rachel Holland
Zamzam Ibrahim Sahaya James† Izzy Lenga Jasmine Manning Sean Mcnamee†
Ali Milani Daniel Nikolla Ana Oppenheim Omar Raii Yinbo Yu†
2017/2018 Darren Clarke Joseph Cox Zamzam Ibrahim Hansika Jethnani Myriam Kane
Bethany Kitchener Jessica Levy Lucy Mason Louise Meek Rahman Mohammadi
Ilyas Nagdee Nia Nash Ceewhy Ochoga Krum Tashev Aliya Yule

†Further education


Up until 2019, there was five policy zones.

  • Higher Education
  • Further Education
  • Union Development
  • Welfare
  • Society and Citizenship

Each zone was made up of a committee of elected students.

Since the 2020 National Conference, this was changed to:

  • Higher Education
  • Further Education
  • Liberation and Equality

Annual Conference

The National Union of Students holds an annual conference each year. All affiliated Students' Unions are able to send delegates to the conference, the number of delegates each Union can send being proportional to its membership size. Higher Education Unions are required to elect their delegates, Further Education and Small and Specialist Unions are able to appoint.

Liberation campaigns

There is an NUS Liberation Conference which combines all 5 NUS liberation caucuses:

  • Black Students Campaign
  • Disabled Students Campaign
  • LGBT+ Students Campaign
  • Trans Students Campaign
  • Women Students Campaign

Trustee Board

According to the NUS the role of the Trustee Board is as follows:

[The] Trustee Board will work to ensure a sound, healthy and legally compliant organisation - allowing an elected Executive Council of students to concentrate on campaigning and representing students with confidence and integrity.

The Trustee Board is made up of:

  • The NUS President
  • The five other members of the National Executive Council
  • Six members elected at NUS National Conference
  • Four lay trustees selected on the basis of their skills and experience
Karl Hobley
Kainde Manji
Fabian Neuner

Jess Green
Ilana Fenster
Varinder Singh

Democratic Procedures Committee

The Democratic Procedures Committee are a committee elected at NUS national Conference to ensure that the NUS' democratic procedures are followed. The nomination form for election to the Democratic Procedures Committee describes the remit of the committee as thus:

[The] Democratic Procedures Committee are responsible for the democracy of NUS - the accessibility of its conference and the fair policy processes of the National Union as a whole. Among other things they are responsible for the motions and amendments process, the accessibility of the Conference venue for all delegates and the

administration of conference procedures during the meeting itself.

The Democratic Procedures Committee were criticised for their decision to cut the delegation size of some universities at NUS Conference, a move which is seen as reducing the diversity of delegations sent to conference. Supporters of this decision argue that it addresses a long-standing imbalance between delegate sizes for higher education and further education institutions.

Members are elected to the Democratic Procedures Committee are elected on a two-year term.

Previous DPC committees

2009-2011 2010-2012 2011-2013 2012-2014 2013-2015 2014-2016 2015-2017 2016-2018 2017-2019 2020-2021
Kathy Wylde Simon Darvill Nabil Alizai Guy Drury Naa Acquah John Hein Tobiloba Adeyemi
Mark Foster Sam De Kare-Silver John Hein Beth Redmond Bradley Langer Eve Alcock
Yemi Makinde Hanif Leylabi Noah Levy Sam Gold Mariya Hussain Fraser Amos
Will Watson Liz Mutter Sam Mujunga Millie Thomas Sam Mujunga Phill Dowler
Hassun El Zafar Lucy Holland
Zainab Khan
Rania Salim
Maryam Shah

"Special Regions" and "Area Organisations

National Union of Students Areas are support organisations, affiliation to which is open to individual students' unions which are usually (but not always) already affiliated members of the UK-wide National Union of Students of the United Kingdom ("NUS"). Membership of an Area organisation is optional (determined by the normal democratic process at each students' union) and is paid for by subscription in addition to the cost of affiliation to the national body.

Area organisations meet together to support each other through the Areas Political Convention (formerly the Areas National Convention), and are able to attend the National Union's annual conference as non-voting observers. Additionally Area Conveners have sometimes been members of the Executive Committees of the "special regions" (Scotland (NUS Scotland), Wales (NUS Wales), and Northern Ireland (NUS-USI).)

The position of "Areas" within the Constitution of the National Union has long been somewhat controversial. They do not feature in all printed editions of the Constitution, but have not been officially dissolved by the decision-making Annual Conference of the national body. They are nominally autonomous or semi-autonomous, but often use some of the same branding and certainly have access to the resources of their regional and national offices.

The current National Union of Students website has this to say about areas:

Area organisations, recognised by NUS, provide localised support to students’ unions through campaigns, development and training. They consist of students’ unions that choose to affiliate to the Area within a geographical boundary determined by NUS. Area organisations further the work of NUS within their boundary, and must do so in accordance with the aims, objects and policy of the national union.

At one time almost all NUS regions contained several Area organisations; Scotland for example was divided into "NUS North of Scotland Area", "NUS West of Scotland Area" and "NUS East of Scotland Area". In this example, the East of Scotland organisation tended to work very closely with the national (Scottish) organisation due to being based in the same city, Edinburgh. In more remote parts of the country, the Area organisations are intended to form a useful first point of contact and readily accessible person to assist the local student unions.

Areas normally have a "Convener" who is generally a current student or one who has just graduated, and will take a year, theoretically (but not always) paid, to work for the Area — known as a "sabbatical" in the case of current students, and in this sense following the model of the sabbatical officers of students' unions at individual educational institutions. Occasionally the Convener would serve two or even more years in office. Those Areas able to afford the costs may send their Convener to a training session provided by the National Union. In any event, the regional organisation will normally provide training and support.

Because of their local perspective and autonomous nature, it is not uncommon for Areas to be involved in conflicts with the national organisation. Conversely, political groupings (and the fulfilling of obvious functions and shared goals) within the bodies sometimes draws them into very close co-operation.

West Midlands Area National Union of Students

West Midlands Area National Union of Students (WMANUS) is the oldest of the current National Union of Students Areas and operates as a semi-autonomous organisation of the National Union of Students of the United Kingdom. WMANUS works with affiliated Students' Unions in the West Midlands of England on campaigns, training, union development and other issues of relevance to students in the region. Area organisations are now starting to re-establish themselves across England with the establishment of the South East Area National Union of Student (SEANUS) and the Anglian Union of Students (ANGUS) - with others looking to follow.

WMANUS has two full-time convenors who are supported by a part-time Executive Committee. It holds two Conferences (Spring and Winter) every year to discuss policy, elect its new Executive committee and determine the direction and work of the Area. Its main aims are to represent all students of affiliated Student Union/Associations/Guilds on educational and welfare issues across the West Midlands region. It runs regional wide campaigns as well as specific training events for its Constituent Members (CMs).

This page was last updated at 2023-07-20 07:40 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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