So 9 of us are off on Monday morning to Sheffield to NUS conference as delegates of the Guild of Students. As President, I go automatically and am “delegation leader”. The other 8 students are elected by cross-campus ballot earlier in the year. We’ll be joining other delegates from all over the country mon-wed to vote on national NUS policy and to elect the executive committee for next academic year.
In the spirit of transparency and all that, I will be posting my thoughts on motions and officer candidates as stands. There are some things which (where directly in line with Guild policy) my position will be fixed. However for others (and probably to a large extent the officer elections) – my mind is not totally made up yet and my vote will be formed based upon policies and manifestos as written, but also, I expect my opinions to be changed over the coming days as the candidates make themselves known in person and through debate etc. (Motions to follow over the weekend – time permitting!)
When reviewing candidates for elections, i’m looking for a number of things: How their policies and politics match up with those of the Guild of Students. Their records and personal styles and the ability that I think they will have to make an impact and finally I look at the likelihood of them having an impact locally if elected, whether that’s to to us in Birmingham or to less fortunate unions that need a boost elsewhere. The final point is personally important to me as I haven’t felt especially connected to the NUS this year and i’m keen to see how students might benefit from it locally where it has previously been London/National-centric as an organisation.
President – Toni Pearce
I’m immediately discounting the carbon rod which, whilst amusing and a protest vote, is a bit of a sideshow to the fact that the office does need a serious holder. Toni tips the balance for me. Aside from her experience already as deputy president of the NUS, that she comes from an Further Education (FE) background is a rarity. The majority (4.5 million) of NUS’ membership are FE students. Yet the major players have traditionally been large, well-funded HE unions such as ours. Toni’s candidacy offers an opportunity to reach out to that large group of students, both to represent and support them – a group that may well be facing the challenges of the new HE market and one that will likely be increasing in size as mandatory education until the age of 18 is gradually introduced. Her manifesto also looks forwards to general elections and the scottish independence vote – heartening foresight of potential challenges/opportunities for students in electoral politics.
#1 - Toni Pearce
#2 - Vicki Baars
#3 - Peter Smallwood
#4 – Inanimate Carbon Rod (Borne by Samuel Gaus)
#5 – RON
VP Welfare – Undecided
At the moment, i’m undecided about who to back in this election. On credibility, i’m finding it very difficult to pick between the candidates – they’re offering very different approaches to tackling many of the same issues. Al Hussein uniquely comes from an international student perspective and seems to have a lot of campaigning experience. Rosie takes a seemingly more radical approach to campaigning. Her manifesto details campaigning on liberation issues and raises the issue of the living wage (resonating discussions at Birmingham) She seems to have experience, but (similar to Al Hussein) there is little on her manifesto which tangibly details her record of achievement. Colum has made some demonstrably good achievements as a sabb at Kent. By contrast, he seems to favour a lobbying and research-based approach and talks about engaging smaller and FE unions. I’d be interested to hear thoughts on this and see how my views are impacted as conference progresses.
#4 – RON
VP Union Development – James McAsh
Having read through the manifestos of both candidates, James’ resonates with me more as having some good ideas, that might be suited to nationally led projects, but would trickle down to impact positively at Birmingham. I find his thoughts interesting on improving engagement in the running of students unions (i’ve seen a lot of activity from him throughout the year on referenda and democracy) and also a priority campaign around autonomy and (esp financial) independence of SU’s from their institutions – something, which I suspect might be increasingly on the agenda as we look beyond the traditional surplus generator – the bar. When talking to him recently, his ideas on regional collaboration were also interesting (especially as this year, there’s been comparatively close work with the other 4 HE unions in Birmingham) and he has had experience of such collaborative work in Scotland.
#1 - James McAsh
#2 - Rachael Mattey
#3 - RON
VP Society and Citizenship – Dom Anderson
My personal experience of Dom is an incredibly positive one and in my early days as an officer (whilst he was beginning his second term at derby) provided some excellent support and I know he’ll be an excellent national officer. Dom talks about his experiences of getting to University in the first place, as a mature student-parent and this seems to shape much of his manifesto. His thoughts centre around tangible and localised campaigns, which involve the community but also aim to make achievements for students and students unions financially and as part of general citizenship education. His thoughts and work on the living wage also echo with recent discussions at Birmingham.
#1 - Dom Anderson
#2 - Shereen Prassad
#3 - RON
VP Higher Education – Rachel Wenstone
Now is clearly not the easiest time for HE campaigners but Rachel seems to have been steering the course successfully during her first term as VPHE. I have felt her to be a credible person, who in my personal experience empathises with problems that we face here at Birmingham, but also shows understanding of the myriad of localised issues on campuses across the country. She works on large-scale campaigns, but also more focused initiatives such as work around the introduction of Grade Point Average (GPA) degree classifications. Her manifesto lays out a clear vision of what she hopes to achieve, following on from her first term. It also has specifics for postgraduate students, a group that face unique challenges and as a postgrad, she is well placed to work on, especially with regards to PG (taught) funding. Her credibility, mixed with her vision makes her my candidate of choice.
#1 - Rachel Wenstone
#2 - Tomas Evans
#3 – RON