Oxford University voted to leave the National Union of Students (NUS) on Wednesday morning, following a referendum from which the 'Believe in Oxford' campaign emerged victorious.
The decision was made after a vote on Wednesday evening, which passed by just 128 votes, in favour of OUSU becoming independent from the NUS, joining St Andrew’s, Imperial College London and Southampton in being an unaffiliated Student Union.
Jack Matthews, leader of the victorious “Believe in Oxford” campaign, said he was “delighted” at the “courage” of Oxford in standing up to the NUS, expressing hope that other Student Unions will “follow our lead…to bring about the NUS students truly deserve”.
However, OUSU President Tom Rutland has expressed fears that OUSU will be weakened as a result and said he was “disappointed by the result”. He further noted: “I’m concerned about the impact it will have on OUSU and Oxford students. My time at OUSU has shown me that NUS membership is a real lifeline both for our elected officers and our student body.”
Rutland remains hopeful that OUSU would reaffiliate with NUS soon, saying: “Students are stronger when they work together – be it at a common room, university or national level – so I hope that OUSU will reaffiliate to NUS in the near future”.
An anonymous student from Wadham College also suggested that OUSU would not be strong enough to support students without the NUS. He said: “OUSU is redundant to Oxford students” due to the support of the collegiate system.
In the past, Cantabs have also considered disaffiliating from NUS and it was brought to vote in 2010. However, 65% of students voted to remain with NUS, with many Cantabs expressing concerns that CUSU would not be strong enough to support students were it to disaffiliate from NUS.
The importance of an NUS affiliated Student Union has also been questioned in other universities, with a first-year at Nottingham saying “I haven’t really felt its influence, but they misprinted all of this year’s uni cards, and none of them said NUS on them when they were meant to”.
Yet despite the recent disaffiliation many universities remain in support of NUS; Stirling University voted 73% in favour of NUS, Birmingham voted 74% in favour, Surrey and Sheffield 97% in favour and Aston 99%.