From this weeks issue of the Socialist. A version of this article also appeared in Seren, the newspaper of Bangor Students' Union.
Most students have to borrow thousands of pounds each year to pay tuition fees and living costs which mount up into colossal student debts. Many students also face an uncertain future with a large growth in graduate unemployment last year, a situation which looks unlikely to improve any time soon. On top of this it is likely that fees will be increased.
Iain Dalton, Candidate for NUS 'block of 15'
On 25 February there was a national march against tuition fees. In the past this would have been organised by the National Union of Students (NUS), using its resources to ensure that students can voice their opposition to fees. But the NUS has abandoned the struggle for free education. Instead, in an attempt to fill this void, a coalition of left student groups, including Socialist Students, and student unions organised a demonstration.
For a long time the official leadership of NUS has been in the hands of Labour Students, the student wing of the Labour Party and their co-thinkers. NUS did not organise a serious campaign against fees, failing even to organise a major demonstration on the day of the vote in parliament to introduce fees, despite a strong mood of anger and opposition. With one of the closest votes, such a tactic could have potentially swayed the extra few votes needed to defeat fees.
Since then the NUS leadership's role has become progressively worse. For example, the whole basis of the most recent NUS Wales lobby of the Welsh Assembly is based on acceptance that the Assembly is going to stop paying part of the tuition fees (currently up to £1,890) for Welsh students who study in Wales. That money is instead to be spent on bursaries, which are means tested and do not come near the huge levels of debt students face. This approach is based on the NUS leadership's belief that nothing can be done to stop the cap on fees being lifted.
The recent NUS governance review has been all about consolidating this do-nothing leadership and weakening the democratic structures.
In fact, the two most significant student movements this year bypassed the NUS nationally; firstly the wave of sit-ins against the invasion of Gaza across the country and secondly the small, but significant anti-fees demonstration.
NUS certainly needs change - but it is a change in political direction that is needed. Socialist Students provides a strategy for fighting attacks on students. That is why I am standing as a candidate in the NUS Block of 15 elections.