My report- National Student Union UK Conference 2021- Joined As “NUS Delegate” – MD😊🙏🏽

“National Student Union Conference 2021”

Date: 10/04/21

Name of the Student: Md Mominul Hamid

Nick Name: MD (ABIR)

My All social media and blog: https://linktr.ee/abirking2017

Email: m.m.hamid@northumbria.ac.uk

Group: Northumbria University Student Union ( NUS)

Acknowledgments:

      I would like to submit my humble thanks to all the students, My LAW faculty students, and my Cohorts at my university who have nominated me and voted for me to be there to represent them. In addition, to Jogra D’Adamo for her help and support, Claudia Shaw for her continuous assistance and kindness, Emmanuel Kabengele for his support and for the food voucher, My SU officials, and my Delegate Team members, and of course the Facebook group chat. I would also like to express gratitude to my university faculty cohorts and other students and who has nominated me for this role, My respective Tutors, my personal Tutor Delphine Defossez, Adam Ramshaw and Jonathan Nash, Larissa Kennedy for talking to me personally (The President of National Student Union)  for their inspiration and kind perusal which helped me tremendously to take part in the national Students Union Conference for the first time a First Asylum seeker Student in the National Student Union History. 

Abstract:

 This year’s National Conference starts with high energy, impactful campaigning space – moving away from reacting to the symptoms, and going after the root causes instead. It is a conference where someone can –

1.    Spaces where they can build your networks and connections, 
2.    Meaningful involvement in shaping the next steps of SU campaigns
3.    Chances to grow their own campaigning skills to take action.

NUS ran a priority ballot on all of the policy proposals submitted for our upcoming National Conference in April. These are the policies which passed, to be discussed at Conference. For 2021 our motion for the conference were-

With the aim of expanding the idea and campaign of our Northumbria SU movement, this report will emphasise the elements whatever we have discussed and notes from the confere3nce which may help my Northumbria SU in future. This is my moral and obligatory duty to clarify what have I done in the NUS conference my SU, cohorts and peers know the duty they have given me by electing me through this report. 

The History of NUS:

The NUS was formed on 10 February 1922 at a meeting held at the University of London. At this meeting, the Inter-Varsity Association and the International Students Bureau (which organised student travel and had been lobbying for a national body) agreed to merge.

Founding members included the unions of University of BirminghamBirkbeck, University of LondonLondon School of EconomicsImperial College (who first left in 1923 and have subsequently rejoined and left three times, the last time being in June 2008), King’s College London (who supplied the first President, Sir Ivison Macadam) and the University of Bristol.

Table of Contents:
Acknowledgments
              
Abstract                                            
History of NUS  Introduction
Methodology
Discussion                                             
Conclusion and Further Recommendations                                Limitation
Voting 
My social media post and some pictures
A short Bio of the Researcher
Thank you
Table of Contents in the research report ( MD)

Acronyms:  Acronyms will be used throughout the research report will be-

NUS:National Student Union SU: Students Union NSU: Northumbria Student Union

Introduction:

     Going to the NUS conference was a lifetime experience for me. Being a delegate and meeting with other delegates around the country universities was another great experience. We have 3 days conference and I have tried to attend every single event in this conference to get the depth of the discussion and the action plan about NUS for the next. Every day we had at least one session for the motions. We have discussions, questions answer sessions and also small group breakdown rooms to discuss the motions. There was a extensive discussion happened in those sessions every time we have attended. My report will try to reflect on those points what we have discussed, and I will try to present my notes based on 3 days NUS conference. 

Methodology:

The report is aimed to evaluate the impacts of the nationwide students in their University education in the UK regardless of their studentship ( Local, International.) Data was collected through the discussions on the motions we had ’ from various university students, unvirility officials  including myself students who did attendant the Conference as a delegate. There were open questions throughout the session. However, the delegates were given chance to give detailed responses through open questions at the end. Delegates were asked about their opinions in terms of future improvement of the NUS with some suggestions while discussing the motions in dept.

Discussion:

Discussion will consist of multiple sections. First, a general overview of the conference, then day 1,2 and 3 discussions of NUS conference based on my participation on motion topics, My media posts and links about the conference, voting , recommendations and things can be improved more in the conference and conclusion.

A general Overview:

Over three days (6-8 April,2021) in Zoom session NUS conference participants from different universities as a delegate and officials as well. We have the opportunity to meet with the people who runs the NUS and also speak to them directly via Q&A and general conversations.

The National Union of Students of the United Kingdom (NUS) is a confederation of students’ unions in the United Kingdom. Around 600 students’ unions are affiliated, accounting for more than 95% of all higher and further education unions in the UK.

3 days in the conference:

I have joined the opening session. There was a speech from the President of NUS. The opening speech was very informative to encourage and welcomed us with the conference as a delegate.

Then I have joined the sessions. Session I have joined in the NUS conference

1st day- Decolonising Education Workshop

2nd day-

3rd day-

Day 1

Day 1
  • Morning session:

Decolonise Education Workshop:

 Education providers fundamentally cannot decolonize education themselves because of what our education and institutions were created and built upon – historical genocide, enslavement, displacement, and colonialism. Decolonization of education will only be achieved by centering and empowering Black people through a movement that is networked, resourced, and active. Strengthening and providing a platform for this movement is the aim of our #NUSDecoloniseEducation campaign. Things we have discuss as well-

Critically thinking about land, space, & the university Decolonization is Not a Metaphor (Tuck and Yang, 2012) Whilst UoM is based in a non-settler context, this paper highlights the importance of extending our solidarity to Indigenous peoples Centering Indigenous Futurity Unsettling the Settler Critical thinking about our positionality being called ‘Decolonise UoM’ Can we justify the name? Decolonization as a metaphor re-centres whiteness UoM BLM Statement policing on campus, gentrification, arms trade etc.

What we’re planning to do in the future – Whilst acknowledging that we operate in a context that undermines decolonial approaches and refuses to acknowledge institutional racism Continue to centre Indigenous Futurity Continue to centre the unsettling work being done ‘in the margins NETPOL, Cops off Campus Campaign Raise awareness about decolonisation being used as a buzzword in HE Lecture at Bauhaus University, Germany for their new interdisciplinary course Decolonising Urban Studies and Urban Art Pressuring and (hopefully) working with the computer science department to dump racist terminology Event with AIU RACE Centre in May Continuing the Reading Group with OSCH at Manchester Museum.

In the “NUS Conference”. The question I have raised to the panel, ” How can we do the Inclusion of Decolonization in our Curriculum”.

Ans: I was been advised it depends on the university and their willingness to be inclusive and also SU can hold meetings with the university authorises to take this further.

The questions others has got-

How can we avoid ‘decolonial fatigue’ when decolonisation is becoming a co-opted concept? • What strategies can we use to avoid fragmentation and bring forces together to make a bigger and effective impact? – The place/value of Global South scholars and scholarship in the movement • What does sustainability look like?

  • Afternoon session:

Running Campaigns as a student campaigner:

One of the important focuses of the conference was “Campaigning for the change” and how NUS can help the students to build up further skills to involve themselves in local or national campaigns. We have suggested a number of possible selection criteria to help people decide their priority focus for an advocacy campaign. This includes: Experience and evidence, clear solution, Winnability – is the solution actually achievable? views of people with real experience of your issue and interest from your target.

DAY 2

Day 2
  • Morning session:

Students Mental Health:

Due to the Covid and being a first-year student and student rep, I felt it’s very important for me to join this motion and to gain extensive knowledge of what NUS thinks about it. We had a wonderful session on our motion about ” Students mental health” My question was ” Due to the overwhelming waiting time to access the NHS mental health services (sometimes up to 2 years) can the University investment advisor do something about accessing the mental health support in a larger capacity. Such as instead of only 6 sessions (45 min each session) for a whole year students get monthly at least 3 sessions with their mental health consultant. Also, if the university can have some connections with the NHS mental health services to prioritize access to mental health with a joint campaign? We have discussed very crucial points about being international students and having trouble accessing mental health services.

We want Universities will have properly funded mental health support for all those who need it, but this will be combined with a proactive preventative approach to addressing problems that can impact students’ mental health.

I have also spoken in the session that – “ I think that makes a little sense well I think the best. One of the best ways first of all to demonstrate the problem is I think there needs to be a bigger, maybe qualitative survey research project into how the pandemic is impacted students and to also show you the how these problems pre-existed. For example, we’ve conducted, we conducted a survey on student loneliness and demonstrate to the university, quite shockingly how lonely students with eating, and how that link to their mental health, and I definitely  think that qualitative feedback and demonstrating the impact of the pandemic but also the years prior to it have had one student mental health and well being is a really really good way to demonstrate this problem”

We have discussed the outcome we want from this motion –

  1. Education institutions will:
     Adopt a “whole institution” approach to the issue of student wellbeing, recognising that mental health must be addressed through policies on welfare, education and accessibility. 
  2. Centre principles of liberation and equality in their response to the student mental health crisis, recognising the unique difficulties faced by marginalised students and the need for targeted support. Measures such as improved training for pastoral staff, competent and well-funded support services and inclusive complaints procedures should be developed in consultation with relevant student groups . 
  3. Increase hardship funding provision for students less able to meet the cost of higher education and ensure that this is well-signposted and easily accessible . This should also be supported with measures to remove the financial barriers to accessing specialist support services through setting up targeted funds to cover fees and travel costs. 
  4. Establish advisory and support structures (e.g. welfare hubs) which acknowledge the links between welfare and education provision; these structures could be sites for political education, staff training and skills support for students, in addition to counselling, advice and guidance. Services for students which include trained staff acting as advocates/intermediaries and signposting support, resources and accessibility information could also be incorporated into this system.

#healthcare #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealtheducation

  • Afternoon Session:

New vision

In this particular session, we have learned insight on campaign progress + next steps, an understanding of framing and the importance of getting it right for campaigns, energy + motivation to join us, support the campaign and take action to achieve a new vision for education.

The current system is flawed – we need to reimagine an education system that is fully-funded, decolonised, democratised, liberated, lifelong and accessible to all.

The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the issues, from marketisation, fees & finance, hardship, housing, access & opportunities, to barriers for marginalised groups.

We must now encourage students to think bigger and more long-term – these are NOT covid-isolated issues. We need to expose the wider injustices and empower supporters to join us in grasping at the root and fighting for better.

We have discussed about –

Framing a New Vision for Education:

  • Find out what popular opinions & beliefs exist currently around education in the UK and why
  • Identify the most effective ways we can communicate a ‘new vision’ to students & the wider public
  • Develop & test new ways of framing the campaign
  • Create a series of tools & resources which the student movement can use to strengthen campaigns
  • Map out what a ‘new vision’ looks like and how exactly we can achieve that
  • Collectively campaign, lobby, and advocate for a transformed education system

To kick off our research, we spoke to student officers in focus groups and began to analyze some ‘social listening’ data. This is what we’ve found so far:

  • Students are ANGRY about pandemic disruptions, only now just starting to identify the many flaws in the system
  • Students are CONFUSED about the education system, lacking a clear understanding of how it all works
  • Students are MOBILISED, more engaged & ready to take action, but don’t know where to channel energy
  • Student officers / activists / campaigners/organisers feel they are lacking the tools & resources to effectively communicate about education within the movement

Sometimes students are feeling that- 

Our feelings sometimes as a student

My group discussion:

I have jotted down some notes that we took during the group discussion of what we’d like to see in a new education system. Then we have presented it in the session-

  1. I think flexibility and accessibility is the number one thing that we’d like to see happen.
  • We also want either no cost or reduce costs. And by that, we mean fee and associated costs of rent, because a lot of money, student spends actually on like rent and stuff and not the actual degree itself.
  • We also need mental health support for students, and we need to treat education, like education and not a business because a lot of the problem with education system is it currently is because people see it as a business money making medium, rather than a place to educate people.
  • We also think that cultural competence should be embedded in education, and by that we mean like abolishing, racism, structural racism and also educating students about like racism and discrimination issues, so that people actually come out of these institutions with knowledge on how to be like be some people and not racist.
  •  We also put a point about like the need for education to be like interdisciplinary and how we should make it easy for People to like, pick up other subjects, other skills for the sake of learning rather than having to like tick boxes for certain
degrees and, you know, going through all the admin burden just to have a go at a new subject that you never done before.
Because that is, even though it is allowed in a lot of universities. Some universities make it very difficult for students to explore themselves academically though, like that.


And lastly, we think that it’s very important for an education system to consider those points into our universities.

Day 3

Day 3
  • Morning Session:

Fees and finance ( Student Accommodation)

  • Over two thirds of student renters (69 per cent) are concerned about their ability to pay rent
  • A third of students believe that they would not be allowed to leave their tenancy agreement early due to the pandemic
  • 57 per cent of those who have been self-isolating have not received any support from their accommodation provider
  • 22 per cent of students have been unable to pay their rent in full over the past 4 months.
Online pool about the understanding of the proposal

Students from across the world descended on UK universities on the promise of an in person, on campus experience. Students arrived at universities and immediately faced tightening restrictions and a fleeting experience. 
The landscape of higher education in the UK has been exposed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the educational experience has not been good enough, certainly not worth the thousands of pounds being spent on tuition fees. Where other industries have been assisted in providing appropriate refunds for lost services, universities have been abandoned.

We have felt that current tuition fees are inappropriate considering the lack of services they are receiving in comparison to what was offered when they took up the offer of the course. This has led to mistrust from to the student body towards to the university. This is damaging student experience and the academic reputation of the institutes.  
Secondly, a major aspect of the students’ experience, which is employability development, was weakened. The university advertises access to various equipment, workshops and networking sessions, and other career building programs. Majority of which has been on hold ever since the lockdown. The equipment which is core for students’ skill development that employers seek, equipment that is covered under the tuition fees, remains inaccessible. Other facilities that are vital for skill and career development remain, till this day, inaccessible.  

This issue is crucial to the movement to do justice to the finances of the students. Having this issue solved, discussed and fee rebates/reduction granted in tuition fee would help students with financial problems, and uphold the integrity and reputation of universities. 
There is decreasing confidence from students in NUS as a union that can affect meaningful change.  

We think-
The government is in a position to support universities financially so that they can provide this for students and rejects the notion that refunds and protecting university funding must come into conflict.  
We propose a multi-option solution This is in the hope that the financial stress is relieved on all parties involved, international students, home students, and academic bodies.
We must lobby for and display unity against a government that has shown no care for the position of students throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.   

We would like to see a refund of students’ tuition fees this year: in order to match the quality of the education received, students will be granted partial refunds on tuition fees. Thus, covering the essential, yet missing elements, to a complete university experience such as the free access to libraries, buildings and the face-to-face classes can be amended.   

The value of this refund must be determined through wide consultation that involves students, NUS representatives.  This process behind this valuation must be open access and transparent to all.  The refund may be of a different value depending on course, year, university, and other factors that impact the level of service provided.   International students must be considered separately and equally to home students – a refund given as a percentage of the total fee paid ensures equity of compensation.  
Flexibility may be possible surrounding timelines and staggered rollouts of these refunds, but this can be determined in the consultations.  

The government should take responsibility for its failures by compensating students and supporting the sector. This would include making funds available to universities for the purpose of compensating students on their tuition fees, and underwriting the debt of universities that are in danger of bankruptcy.

Things we have discussed in the group discussion

NUS must embody the spirit and intention of the 2010 Tuition Fees protests in standing firmly in opposition to the financial exploitation of students, and that the pandemic has exacerbated this long-term issue.  
We must ensure our actions are radical and strategically impactful, as campaigning alone can often risk being viewed as performative.  
a)    NUS must organise a national tuition fee strike campaign for the year 2021/2022 if the government fails to meet these demands, to model that of the rent strike nationally, involving:  
b)    Calling for returning students or students with confirmed places for the year 2021/22 to sign up to a strike on paying their tuition fees until the government and universities commit to guaranteeing tuition fee refunds.  
c)    Seeking legal advice on the best mechanism to do this – either through students refusing SFE paying loans in their name to the universities or through other means.  
d)    Organising a robust strategy to maximise the number of students that sign up to ensure the efficacy of the strike and minimising the risk for students being penalised individually.   
e)    NUS to hold a day/s of action and protest in response to the treatment of students during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to radically reinforce this action and position.

Question I have raised as being an international student myself-

 “What be the measures in place for the International students? Are we all in this together regardless of our status?

We all have happily agreed “yes”.  

  • Afternoon Session:
  • Closing Session:

We have joined the ending session in the afternoon session and we had a lovely ending speech by our NUS President. We had a solidarity statements by other delegates and then we approached towards the end of the conference.

Some part of the Ending speech by Larissa Kennedy ( The president of NUS) –

“But I want to thank you conference because despite the exhaustion, that you must all be feeling and what has been a year like no other, and such a hard time to be an officer to be an organizer to be a student, you still energized me. Your words have poured into me into one another and we reminded ourselves of all why we fight so hard, why we can pay and why we lobby why we organize why we keep the vision of a free liberated accessible deep colonial education system alive, within and beyond virtual conference floor you’ve shared with me, and we work with one another, your experiences as International students, students of faith as mature students as survivors as asylum seekers, the students from liberation communities. And you to have shared and poured into one another’s visions for the education system for the world, and for how we organize to get there”

“This is a new era for in us, an era where we focus on what unites us not what divides us where we know that we need grassroots student organizers and student offices coming together to resist an education system that was built on new liberal colonial Promises and is rotting at its core, and as an Abolitionist myself I’m all the way here for it when it comes to tearing down and building a new but the building is not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight.

“I’m incredibly excited that based on some vital conversations on the discord at 5pm on zoom we’re holding space for delegates to lead a session around how we build power at the grassroots where we go from here. And as officers we want to support you in building the organizing communities that work for you that support the ways that you want to be involved locally, regionally and nationally”

Overall Feedback:

Overall, the feedback from attendees has been overwhelming positive with comments like: “every part of the conference was exactly what I came for” and Everything was up to marks “- and most frequent -” Thank you!

I had an opportunity to speak to NUS president personally in one session luckily. I have explained her about the obstacle an asylum seeker student faces in the university education and lots of restriction. She has listen to me and I will approach to her about it soon.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, this conference was inspiring and very empowering and shows how a simple idea of the collective campaign can become transformational. Being an asylum seeker in the UK and being there was my dream. I have tried my best to represent my University and my University student’s voice and raise the issues in whatever possible ways I can either by being in the conference and discussing the issues and questioning or by my own social media.  Throughout this journey, students found themselves in a very positive place and they have expressed their view saying their voices are been heard, they know about their rights, and ready to explore to be there for the betterment of all our students. I would like to finish with my beloved mother’s last wordings “Be there for people, and your community, no matter what. Something good will happen in return”. NUS conference is one of that platforms which teach you to be there for your community and your people. “I missed my belated mother during that course and felt proud. But it was so great I managed to forget her during the course. That is the power of collectiveness and the students. (Md)’’

Future Recommendation in  NUS conference and Research:

Although we had a wonderful NUS conference but there is some recommendations, I have which can be taken into account in the next conference –

– Lack of accessibility for deaf or hard of hearing students

– Leaders of sessions not having pronouns – Sessions starting late

– Links not going to the correct session – People allowed into sessions when the room was over capacity

 – Helping to facilitate a Northern or North east network of Sus

 – A delegate alumni network

– Recognition with a participant certificate in the future.

– Asylum seekers students’ rights and discussion.

Limitation:

This year Nus conference was virtual and we did not had the opportunity to meet face to face and do our networking properly. I think this was the only limitation in the Nus conference.

My Voting In the NUS:

As I was a delegate, I had the opportunity to vote for the national Scrutiny Council. Here are the people I have voted for. The reason I have chosen them as I think they represent the views of my own university students in an extensive way, and I have also used my personal networking skills and online research before approaching to vote them.

National Scrutiny Council

  1. Lotte Marley
  2. Aysha Saeed
  3.  Ijlal khalid
  4.  Saranya Thambirajah
  5. Seun Twins
  6. Sara bafo
  7. Saqlain Riaz
  8.  Ayman Benmatt

Democratic Procedures Committee

1. Maisan Maseeh

2. Maryam Shah

Motion and Amendments Voting: (Voted – for / Against)

FEES AND FINANCE (MAIN PROPOSAL)   For
MENTAL HEALTH (MAIN PROPOSAL)   For
Content warning: Sexual violence and relationship abuse For ERASMUS+ (MAIN PROPOSAL)   For
STUDENT HOUSING (MAIN PROPOSAL)   For
STUDENT HOUSING (AMENDMENT 4)   For
COST OF LIVING (MAIN PROPOSAL)   For
COST OF LIVING (AMENDMENT 2)   For
COST OF LIVING (AMENDMENT 3)   For
COST OF LIVING (AMENDMENT 4)   For
My voting Chart
While voting finished.

My social Media post and some pictures from the NUS conference:

  • Twitter Post which was responded by the NUS President herself( I was really surprised)-

“What a wonderful Opening at the National Student Union Conference TODAY!. Being a Delegate is an exceptional experience for me to be there for the first time and representing my @NorthumbriaSU @NorthumbriaUni @NorthumbriaLawand Students. #StudentsDeserveBetter #NATCON21 @nusuk”

  • Starting the session with ” Energiser Yoga Session” With #SARAH is really helpful.

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/abirking2017_sarah-health-fitness-activity-6785184373156147201-M7K3

  • Felling motivated to attend the session today about the ” Decolonise Education Workshop” in the “National Student Union Conference”

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/abirking2017_nusdecoloniseeducation-northumbrian-studentsdeservebetter-activity-6785212507536543745-gWvv

  • Day -2 NUS conference,
    It is very important we support the movement to do justice to the finances of the students.

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/abirking2017_nusdecoloniseeducation-northumbrian-studentsdeservebetter-activity-6785515161810698240-_y1K

  • We had a wonderful session on our motion today about ” Students mental health” My question was ” Due to the overwhelming waiting time to access the NHS mental health services

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/abirking2017_healthcare-mentalhealthawareness-mentalhealtheducation-activity-6785893933282025472-UuBT

some memories during the conference NUS#21

 A Short Bio of the Reporter:

Md Mominul Hamid is a Law student in Northumbria law school,  REFUGEE WEEK LEADER 2020, UK, a human rights ambassador and community advocate who is campaigning for the rights of asylum seekers to access higher education. Himself a victim of modern-day slavery and trafficking into the UK, and an asylum seeker, he is now a Sanctuary Scholar at Northumbria University, where he is studying law. His Judicial Review against the Home Office, based on Article 8 human rights, led to the ban on new asylum seekers accessing education being lifted (Immigration Bail Act 2.0). Been nominated for Amnesty Bravery award 2020, Northeast Charity Champion of the year 2020. He has got ‘Education In Inclusion Award’ Northumbria university 2020, Best neighborhood in campus 2020, and recently got a nomination for the Prestigious ” National Societies of Volunteering Award 2021 ( Extra Mile category) for his contribution to his university and the local community and for refugees and asylum seekers.

Through his campaign in the North East, Northumbria University has already given five scholarships, and Newcastle University has announced three scholarships for asylum seekers.

Pic: Md Mominul Hamid ( Refugee Week Leader,2020,UK)

He also volunteers as a National Ambassador for STAR(ex), Experts by Experience advisory panel member for the national City of Sanctuary UK and Refugee Week UK, a Trustee in West End Refugee Services, an Advisor in Citizens Advice, and with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, D6, and Curious Monkey, Together Moving Forward project by European Students Union. He believes in his Mother’s words: “Be there for people and your community, something good will happen in return” and he will follow this always.

                                     Thank You

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