NUS slithers in on Union wide autonomy


The National Union of Students (NUS) has taken steps to centralise and monitor future Student’s Union elections. Their stated aim is that all NUS supported unions will have Emma Powell (NUS Head of Membership) as their named Returning Officer for 2014. This is a controversial move from the organisation as it may lead to future conflicts of interest between individual student representatives and the NUS.

The NUS’ Head of Membership, Emma Powell, has new nationwide over watch powers on registered Union elections.

Key Information

  • All NUS supported unions will have Powell as their named Returning Officer for 2014.
  • All NUS supported unions will have Emma Powell (NUS Head of Membership) as their named Returning Officer for 2014
  • Emma Powell will chair an NUS internal panel, comprising other experienced staff to advise on the decisions that it is referred.
  • The panel will be supported by a network of NUS Contacts across the country and Deputy Returning Officers on campuses – all of which will be offered free training through our elections training days.
  • As NUS Contacts’ will not be the ones signing off the elections or making controversial judgements, they can provide a link between yourselves and the panel, providing a local context and knowledge of local rules and regulations.

The changes have prompted strong criticism, as some students view this change in NUS policy as a direct encroachment on individual Union functionality. One disgruntled Bristol University student mentioned, “[it’s] almost like asking the European Parliament to approve our MPs!”

The NUS is widely considered to be completely incapable of being independent and an unbiased adjudication. Milton doubts that NUS employees will take too kindly to candidates who have called for its abolition.


  1. You do know that individual unions don’t have to appoint NUS returning officers. Most don’t, they either have a student or a university appointed person. Also, this is just a reorganisation of the previous arrangements where one of that NUS internal panel you mentioned would have been the named retuning officer, and therefore the point of contact.

    Candidates don’t get disqualified unless someone complains, and do you really think NUS staff have enough time on their hands to be reading 2000+ manifestos every February/March?

    Plus this news is at least 5 months old!

  2. The motivation here is undoubtedly to disqualify candidates with the “wrong” opinions on things from being elected. SU candidates are generally bland and careerist enough as it is; how much more so with professional NUS staff enforcing the party line.


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