National Union of Students of the United Kingdom

From Academic Kids

The National Union of Students (NUS) is a representative body for the students' unions that exist inside the United Kingdom. Although the NUS is the central organisation for all affiliated unions in the UK, there also exist the national bodies NUS Scotland, UCMC/NUS Wales and NUS-USI in Northern Ireland.

NUS is a member of ESIB - the National Unions of Students in Europe.



The NUS was formed in 1922 from the merging of the Inter-Varsity Association and the International Students Bureau. Founding members included the unions of Imperial College London (who first left in 1923 and have subsequently rejoined and left again twice - the last time being in the 1970s), King's College London who supplied the first President (Sir Ivison Macadam) and Bristol University (whose AGM voted to leave in 2004 in a decision later overturned by a student referendum). The NUS now has over 700 constituent members (the unions of either higher education or further education establishments) through which it represents approximately 5 million UK students, which equates to approximately 98% of all students and hence potential members. However, a number of high profile educational institutions are not members.


The NUS holds national conferences once a year. National Conference is the sovereign body of NUS, and is where NUS policy is decided. Other conferences, such as Regional Conferences, Women's Conference, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans Conference (changed as of 2004), Students With Disabilities Conference, Black Students' Conference and the International Students' Conference (created in 2004) are run to enhance the representation of the specific members they include.

Most of these conferences, and in particular the elections held at them, are hotly contested by factions including Labour Students, the Campaign for Free Education, the Organised Independents, Student Broad Left, Socialist Workers' Student Society, the Union of Jewish Students, Conservative Future and Liberal Democrat Youth and Students

Recently the National Union has suffered from a sharp decrease in income. This sparked in 2003 the then National Treasurer, Ross Renton to launch a series of what he described as reforms and were described by left wingers as cutbacks, primarily around the democratic process. These were later led by the current president Kat Fletcher and accepted by the membership in a process of emergency and annual conferences, although a number of constituent Unions have expressed serious reservations about both the changes and the way in which they have been pushed through.


All UK students' unions are able to join the NUS (providing they are not controlled by their parent institution and their admission is approved by National Conference). To become a constituent member, unions must pay an affiliation fee to NUS, which is based upon the number of students in the union, and the money received by the union from its parent institution.

Most UK university unions are members of the NUS, although a number (primarily Imperial College and the University of St Andrews) have historically chosen for political or economic reasons not to be members. In recent years NUS membership has become a controversial issue with some unions seeing AGM motions and referendums on the membership issue.

The NUS have in the past received criticism for spending significant amounts of time and money in running pro-affiliation campaigns at universities to ensure that they win referendums. The NUS hasn't lost a disaffiliation referendum in over a decade, but on February 5, 2004 the University of Bristol decided to leave following a AGM motion on dissaffiliation. However a subsequent referendum vote overturned the decision. Recent leavers of the NUS have included UMIST, University of Sunderland and the University of Southampton. See also Results of referendums on NUS membership (


NUS offer a number of services to their constituent members. NUS also has a subsiduary company called NUS Services Ltd (NUSSL). NUSSL is essentially a purchasing consortium that allows its members to benefit from bulk purchasing discounts. NUS and NUSSL work closely with the Association for Managers in Students' Unions.


2004-06Kat FletcherSheffield College and Leeds UniversityUntil 2005 CfE then Independent
2002-04Mandy TelfordStrathclyde UniversityNOLS
2000-02Owain JamesWarwick UniversityOrganised Independent
1998-00Andrew PakesHull UniversityNOLS
1996-98Douglas TrainerStrathclyde UniversityNOLS
1994-96Jim MurphyStrathclyde UniversityNOLS
1992-94Lorna FitzsimonsLoughborough CollegeNOLS
1990-92Stephen TwiggOxford UniversityNOLS
1988-90Maeve SherlockLiverpool UniversityNOLS
1986-88Vicky PhillipsUniversity of East AngliaNOLS
1984-86Phil WoolasUniversity of ManchesterNOLS
1982-84Neil StewartAberdeen UniversityBroad Left
1980-82David AaronovitchUniversity of ManchesterBroad Left
1978-80Trevor PhillipsImperial College, LondonBroad Left
1977-78Sue SlipmanUniversity of Wales, LampeterBroad Left
1975-77Charles ClarkeUniversity of CambridgeBroad Left
1973-75John RandallUniversity of YorkBroad Left
1971-73Digby JacksLondon UniversityLeft Caucus
1969-71Jack StrawLeeds UniversityRadical Student Alliance
1968-69Trevor A FiskLondon University
1966-68T Geoff MartinQueen's University, Belfast
1964-66T William SavageQueen's University, Belfast
1962-64A R HughesAberystwyth University
1960-62J Gwyn MorganAberystwyth University
1958-60Dennis J GrennanSouthampton University
1956-58Roland FreemanLondon University
1954-56Frank H CopplestoneNottingham University
1952-54Fred JarvisOxford University
1951-52John M ThompsonUniversity of Manchester
1949-51Stanley K JenkinsCardiff University
1947-49W Bonney RustLondon University
1946-47G McleavyLeeds University
1944-46A T JamesLondon University
1942-44Jack T AllansonUniversity of Manchester
1941-42S G ChecklandBirmingham University
1940-41P A H RivettLeeds University
1939-40Brian SimonUniversity of Cambridge and London University
1938-39R R S WardSheffield University
1936-38F Fraser MilneLondon University
1934-36F Lincoln RalphsSheffield University
1933-34Charles G GilmoreLondon University
1931-33Denis FollowsLondon University and Nottingham University
1930-31H Trevor LloydBristol University
1929-30Sam CohenCardiff University
1927-29F O DarvallUniversity of Reading
1926-27J E MeredithBangor University
1925-26W J LangfordUniversity of Reading
1924-25F G G CarrUniversity of Cambridge
1923-24Ralph Nunn MayBirmingham University
1922-23A Gordon BagnallOxford University
1922Ivison S MacadamKing's College London

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