NUS Q&A Answers

For those who couldn't attend hustings on 3rd April, here are the answers I gave to the questions for VPHE Candidates.

Opening Statement

Hi, my names Nathan, my pronouns are he/him and I'm running to be your next VPHE! This past year I have been the Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer at UEA Students' Union. I've worked on community belonging, tackling student poverty and fighting for more funding. My goals for NUS are simple - fight for free education, stand up for students, both home and international,  fix the student rental crisis and decentralise NUS. While these are all big tasks, I truly believe that we are on the precipice of real, positive change.

I'm angry.

I'm angry that students are paying huge sums for a half-rate education. I'm angry that international students are treated like shit and asked to pay double. I'm angry that we all pay loads in rent for accommodation that is poor condition and often a health risk.

Most importantly, I'm angry that for decades students have been overlooked and ignored by the government. 

There's a lot to be angry about, and a lot to fix. But I believe that together we can change things for the better. So please, vote for me to be your next Vice President Higher Education. Thank You!

You are standing for election to the role of VP HE – why, and what would you bring to the role?

I started university in 2020, and during my first year my dad lost his job. I applied for extra funding and was successful, but later on my dad got a new job and Student Finance England told me I owed them £1700. This debt followed me until after I graduated, where I was forced to pay in full or risk debt collectors coming to my flat. I was one of thousands of students to fall through the cracks of the student finance system.

This awful experience motivated me to get involved in the student movement. I applied to be an NUS delegate in 2022 as I saw NUS as an organisation that has the power to change things for students. NUS gave me hope in a really difficult time, and showed me how to be an effective activist in my community.

However, NUS is in dire need of reform, and we need bold and passionate new leaders to push through change. For too long students have been overlooked - 30 years of compromising with successive governments has left higher education in a complete mess. The next two years will be crucial. We need someone who can tell politicians the truth, regardless of what party they're from. 

A new government has the power to fix our broken student finance system and make real change. As your VPHE, I'll make sure they do.

How will you work with the VP FE and NUS’ FE members to strengthen NUS’ campaigning work?

Further education is fundamental to NUS' power. It is most people's starting point for getting into higher education! If we can show those in education even earlier the power of the student movement and the importance of a union led by students, for students, then we should absolutely seize that opportunity! FE students are a fundamental part of the student movement and were crucial in the government's pandemic grading reversal fiasco, which saw thousands of young people lose their university places. As VPHE I'll make sure to elevate the voices of our FE members and work closely with our VPFE. 

Many FE members cannot even vote - we are the closest most have to a voice in government. There is a lot to be united on - 61% of FE students and 64% of HE students believe that more grants and bursaries should be available to them. 

It should be affordable for everyone to go into both further and higher education, and I will gladly work to make sure that this is the case.

How should NUS respond to ongoing course cuts and closures?

The past few years have been awful for higher education institutions, with 40 universities announcing course cuts just this year. I've seen first hand what financial turmoil can do to an institution - just last year UEA found itself £30 million in debt. Even before this, cuts had already begun impacting the quality of our education. In my second year I wasn't allocated an advisor and neither was anyone else in my school, which led to our department having the lowest NSS scores in our whole university! 

The best way for NUS to respond is to be vocal, and work with campus trade unions to raise the profile of the threat facing higher education in the UK. NUS should also work with UUK to ensure that the government will do something to stop universities from collapsing. 

At UEA, our strategy was simple - scream and shout until we got everyone's attention. I planned a day of action with our UCU branch to 'Save UEA' from financial ruin. In the end, no mandatory redundancies were made at UEA, but financial problems still loom overhead.

It's important to note that this crisis is manufactured by a government that is desperate to reduce migration figures by any means necessary. A huge drop in international student recruitment is a large part of where these financial black holes have appeared from. As VPHE I will campaign tirelessly for the end to the visa restrictions and other hostile environment policies that hurt our international students the hardest.