News editor Elliot Folan presents a series of four questions to the 8 candidates seeking to represent UEA at the National Union of Students (NUS) annual policy-making conference. Concrete only conducted interviews with candidates for NUS National Conference; manifestos and election statements from candidates for NUS Women’s Conference and LGBT+ Conference can be found here, as well as candidates for UEA’s Graduate Students’ Association committee. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by surname.
Question 1. What would your main priority be as an NUS delegate?
George Appleyard: “I am strongly against the NUS, it’s lost its place in the modern era where it can’t even stop tuition fees rising. I’ll boycott the conference in protest of this so as that we can start a real debate at UEA as to whether the NUS is really going to be part of our future or whether it’s time for us to go our separate ways.”
Adam Curtis: “Fight corruption. There appears to be a ‘political class’ of student which dominates the NUS. I want fight the careerists and the voting blocs established by these students. The NUS is not parliament and should be about students, not party politics!”
Azza Dirar: “My main priority as NUS delegate would be to represent the interests of the UEA student body, by voting accordingly on major policy motions discussed at NUS, as well as through proposing relevant motions where they do not exist.
Liam McCafferty: “We need a strong national union to campaign on the issues that really matter to students. That is what I would fight for, and make my priority as delegate.”
Connor Rand: “My main priority would be to effectively represent the views of UEA students in line with Union policy. Areas of policy that I am particularly keen to push at Conference are on the cost of living, making the student loan system work better for students, student welfare more generally and the General Election as an opportunity for students.”
Amy Rust: “Since the introduction of tuition fees and slow eradication of the national scholarship programme, students from single parent or poorer backgrounds are suffering. I would like to see NUS campaigning on this issue and setting up a working group that works alongside charities and our government to support students financially and promote university as a serious option.”
Holly Staynor: “My main priority will be to make the gender balancing rule more inclusive of all genders. I think it’s great to have that policy, but is currently very problematic for those who do not define within the gender binary“
Dan Wrigglesworth: “I believe NUS needs to take a strong message about what we stand for to make real change for students to the political parties in the run up to the general election.”
Question 2. How do you plan to reach out to students and gather their views as a delegate?
George Appleyard: “A vote for me is a simple cry that you don’t want to be present so I won’t need to.”
Adam Curtis: “I would hold an open discussion group in the hive during a lunch time before conference for all students with concerns to turn up and voice them to me, which I will take to the NUS conference.”
Azza Dirar: “I plan to reach out to students through various means of engagement, including having a well-advertised stall in the hive where I will be able to talk to different students and hear their views on wider issues. I will also use this time to engage them in a simple and quick voting process around major NUS policy in order to have a concrete basis for my representation as UEA delegate.”
Liam McCafferty: “As the Postgraduate Education officer, I am used to reaching out to students that are not traditionally engaged, and making union politics relevant to them. I will hold surgeries and gather online feedback to make sure I’m representing your views.”
Connor Rand: “In order to do this I have pledged in my manifesto to hold a consultation and forum before the Conference, so I can most accurately represent the views of UEA students, whist of course always keeping an eye on existing Union policy.”
Amy Rust: “One idea I’d like to do is coffee mornings with students.”
Holly Staynor: “My thoughts on reaching out to students are simple- the best way is to go around to all areas of campus and go out and have real conversations with students about what they want. Setting a Facebook status or just sending an email isn’t enough.”
Dan Wrigglesworth: “I think it is key to hold meetings with a range of students from all schools so I will hold different forums in the run up to conference.”
Question 3. If there is a conflict between your personal views and UEA Student Union policy, would you vote in line with SU policy?
George Appleyard: “I’m representing the students not the union and I’ll be voted in to boycott.”
Adam Curtis: “I’ll do what the students ask me to do – UEA SU policy should never undermine the people it should represent, and I believe it doesn’t. In 1 and 1/2 years, I have only ever been asked by one council rep (out of 6 that should represent me) regularly on how they should vote, and I consistently hear about voting blocs. For NUS, I want to stand out as a true representative.”
Azza Dirar: “In a representative democracy, the personal views of elected representatives are second to the views of the people as it is reflected in policy. As such, it would be my obligatory duty to uphold the tenants of democracy and make sure that every vote I make reflects the democratic consultation of my peers.
Liam McCafferty: “Delegates are elected to represent the views of our union as a whole, not just their own personal opinions. That’s why I will always vote with the union policy to ensure that your views are effectively heard.”
Connor Rand: “I want to be absolutely clear on this – I am seeking to go to Conference not as a platform for my views but to represent UEA students accurately. UEA SU policy and the platform I stood on in my manifesto to become an Officer would always come first.”
Amy Rust: “Being NUS delegate means my mandate is set by the student body, not my own personal gains. As a Union Representative for the past year I’ve been part of the student union’s policy making process. I would find it extremely hypocritical if I was to go against policy I created!”
Holly Staynor: “Always vote in line with policy – they are the best and most direct indication of what students want as they are made directly by students and they should be treated with the upmost authority”.
Dan Wrigglesworth: “What students want is key. We have 15,000 students and each student deserves a voice at nus. What comes out of my consultation will be key along with policy.”
Question 4. Do you support or oppose the NUS’s policy of free higher education?
George Appleyard: “I oppose the policy mostly on economic grounds with government spending already being excessive and university places being limited which will only make entrance harder as demand increases. I will be boycotting the NUS anyway however so I won’t be arguing the case to them.”
Adam Curtis: “I wouldn’t oppose it, but I question its feasibility.”
Azza Dirar: “I do support the NUS policy of supporting free higher education by extension of my support for the greater principle of the universal right to free education.”
Liam McCafferty: “I recently spoke in favour of the NUS policy of free education at union council, and is something I wholeheartedly support.”
Connor Rand: “This question exactly reiterates my earlier point. It doesn’t matter what I think, what matters is what our members think, expressed through policy and consultations.”
Amy Rust: “In the last union council I voted for the SU to keep its commitment of free education on point of delivery. But as a delegate, I will uphold the mandate I am given, whatever that may be.”
Holly Staynor: “Absolutely support. What is great now is that students at UEA have also passed policy for that effect and I support the policy wholeheartedly. Education is a right for all, and should not be limited by how much money you have”
Dan Wrigglesworth: “My opinions on this are irrelevant at conference. Students are the ones with the voice, I will just represent them.”
Elections are currently ongoing for NUS National Conference delegate and will last until Friday 7th November. Votes can be cast at www.ueastudent.com/election, but if you have not already registered for UEA SU services you will need to register for the website. Two delegate places are reserved for candidates who self-identify as women.
NUS National Conference decides policy and elects student officers for the whole of the National Union of Students, a national federation of student unions. The NUS provides training, support and services to student unions, campaigns on issues affecting students and provides a collective voice for students.