The Exeter Students’ Guild has voted to stay in the National Union of Students.
1,291 students voted, surpassing the 1,187 total the referendum needed for a legitimate result. Out of the 23,615 students eligible to vote, only 5.5 per cent voted.
681 students (52.75%) voted “For” continued affiliation
The online vote opened at 9am, Tuesday, 28 May and closed at 4pm, Thursday 30 May 2019. The three options for voters were less diverse than those offered for ordinary student ideas. Voters could choose to vote ‘for’ or ‘against’ the Guild to remain affiliated. Voters could also choose to ‘abstain’.
681 students (52.75%) voted “For” continued affiliation, whilst 589 students (45.62%) voted “Against” the Guild’s continued affiliation to NUS. There were also 21 abstentions (1.63%).
Grace Frain, Students’ Guild President and leader of the For Campaign, said: “It is great to see students use their voice about something they clearly feel so strongly about to help the Guild stay affiliated to NUS, who I believe have a huge part to play locally and nationally. Our campaign worked hard to engage students to understand why staying affiliated would benefit them and the rest of our membership. I strongly believe that the Guild has a duty to improve the communication and engagement relating to NUS here at Exeter. I look forward to seeing how NUS continues to develop and I hope that our incoming Sabbatical Officers are able to engage and work positively with NUS.”
ENGAGEMENT in the vote DECREASED BY OVER 79% from the 2016 referendum
The referendum was the third Exeter has held in fewer than five years. The previous two referendums both reached the conclusion that Exeter was better inside the union than outside of it. As of the time of publication, the Guild cannot hold another referendum on its future in the NUS until 2021.
In the 2016 referendum, over 5,334 students voted, amounting to a 30 per cent turn out. At the time, this was the highest level of engagement in any single-issue vote recorded at Exeter.
However, overall student engagement decreased by over 79 per cent in 2019. According to campaigners, only four students attended the 28 May NUS Debate. Both the “For” and “Against” campaigns agreed the low student interest may reflect a lack of student engagement in the NUS.
Guild President Grace Frain and Rose Ahier, Students’ Guild VP Welfare & Diversity, led the “For” campaign. A campaign video posted to the campaign’s Facebook page featured contributions from Amatey Doku, the Deputy President of NUS, and Eden Ladley, LGBT Officer. Both representatives visited the campus during the week to support the “For” campaigners.
we’re grateful to the Agree campaign… for [their] good nature and friendliness”Warren Bingham-Roberts, leader of the Against Campaign
The “Against”campaign to disaffiliate was represented by Warren Bingham-Roberts, Harry Burton and Will Klintworth. The ‘Against’ side campaigned from Exiter, a Facebook community of over 563 followers. Small teams also handed out flyers on Forum Hill.
Bingham-Roberts, Students’ Guild VP Education, and leader of the Against campaign, said: “As disappointed as we are with the result, we’re grateful to the Agree campaign, and to Grace and Rose, for the good nature and friendliness of the campaign.”
Rosie McDonagh, Students’ Guild VP Activities, said: “I would like to congratulate both campaign teams on their efforts this week; they did a fantastic job in getting students involved in democracy, especially during such a busy time of the year. Very well done to the ‘Stay with NUS’ campaign for their success! It is so important to hear the voice of all our students on a decision this big, and we are excited to see how the Guild can continue to work with NUS in the future to help benefit our students here at Exeter.”
UPDATE: In a statement to Exeposé, Ali Milani, NUS Vice President Union Development, said
“We’re delighted that Exeter students have voted to remain affiliated to NUS. This coming year is an important one as we reform NUS and rebuild the organisation, so student voices are genuinely heard and acted on, and students’ unions receive support that’s better than ever.
“We’ve put in place the frameworks to succeed, but we’ve now got the difficult task of changing the way we work, the cultures in our movement, and ensuring students feel we’re relevant to them.
“We look forward to working with Exeter Students’ Union and our other members to achieve this.”