Mon - Fri: 9am - 5pm

NUS referendum: should we stay or should we go?

What’s happening?

Every three years YUSU asks students to make a decision on our affiliation to the National Union of Students (NUS).

A referendum will take place before the end of Summer term with voting opening on Monday 3 June (week 8) following a referendum debate at 2pm.  

What is a referendum?

A referendum is a vote that’s open to every student, usually to determine a policy position.  

Students will be asked the following question: ‘Should YUSU remain affiliated to the NUS?’

Voters will be able to choose the options 'Yes', 'No' or  abstain.

The outcome will be decided by a simple majority.  If more students vote 'No' to NUS affiliation, YUSU will inform the NUS that we will not be renewing the affiliation.  To reach the quoracy threshold 5% of YUSU members must vote. If under 5% of members vote then no change will be made.

Key dates

Week 6

  • 23 May 2019, 12.30pm, campaign leaders briefing

Week 8

  • Monday 3 June, 2pm, debate, P/L/002

  • Voting opens 3.30pm, and campaigning to follow the debate

Week 9

  • Voting closes noon Monday 10 June

What is YUSU’s position?

The Students’ Union will remain neutral in the referendum. Our priority is to ensure a fair and robust debate, rooted in factual information, in which every University of York student that wishes to participate is able to do so. Student members, including elected officers are free to participate but they do not represent an official YUSU view on the referendum and question of affiliation.

How can I get involved?

Any student at the University of York can get involved. To join a team you need to give your details to the Campaign Coordinators and be briefed on the rules, get in touch with them for more information!

'YES' Campaign Coordinator - Conor Muller:  

Students are getting a rough deal. The government has tripled tuition fees and abolished maintenance grants, putting huge financial strain on students and throwing up barriers to studying at uni. The NUS has fought this every step of the way. It is on the verge of winning tuition fee reductions and the restoration of grants, and we now no longer repay loans until we’re earning a real salary. At a time when the student movement and the NUS are on the verge of real change, we should be coming together with students from across the country to keep up the pressure for fair and accessible higher education, not walking away from the national voice of students.

The NUS also helps our own union. Last year, even after paying fees, YUSU made a profit of nearly £50,000 from NUS affiliation because it helps YUSU purchase food and drink, pays commission on discount card sales and trains YUSU’s officers. If we leave, YUSU will have to make up that money in other ways by cutting spending on students or increasing the prices it charges us in YUSU bars and for sports club and society memberships. What’s more, the fees the NUS charges YUSU are about to be cut by nearly 40%, making the financial benefits of affiliation even greater!

If we leave the NUS, students will immediately notice the difference. We will no longer be able to buy Totum discount cards, and YUSU will need to make up the lost money by increasing prices and cutting spending on its student members. Disaffiliation also weakens the national organisation whose campaigning won us Railcards and council tax exemptions, and which continues to press for a fair deal for students from the government.

Vote Yes to the NUS!

'NO' Campaign Coordinator - Alex

The NUS is in crisis. It worked up a deficit of £3,000,000 (as reported in various outlets, including Nouse, in November), partly caused by the drop-off in income from several other students’ unions saying No to the NUS and opting to leave over the last few years. It’s been rocked by scandals, including its proposal to defund its Trans Campaign and Officer, the failure to adopt new democratic procedures to make its leadership accountable to students, and delegates’ criticism of Holocaust Memorial Day, which led Labour MP John Mann, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, to call the ignorance in the NUS ‘disturbing’. All of this while charging YUSU more than £40,000 for the pleasure. We can and must do better. The NUS isn’t good enough for us.

We must join the wave of Students’ Unions, such as Hull and Newcastle, voting to reject this arrogant, anti-democratic organisation. The NUS is of little benefit to students, and doesn’t even play fair during referendums like this one, sending a ‘Yes to NUS’ email to students at Canterbury Christchurch uni earlier this year in breach of campaign rules. Worse, it’s ineffective in what it claims to achieve - whether it’s liberation for minority groups or a better experience in student bars, time and again the NUS proves itself incapable of benefiting students.

Vote No to an ineffective organisation that worsens your student experience.

Vote No to an undemocratic organisation that doesn’t represent students’ interests.

Vote No to an incapable organisation with a poor record on liberation and that fails to benefit students.

Vote No to the NUS.  


A person may abstain when they do not feel adequately informed about the issue at hand, has not participated in relevant discussions, or for any other reason...Abstensions do not count in tallying the vote negatively or positively; when members abstain they are in effect intending only to contribute to a quorum.

What happens next?

Voting will open at the conclusion of the referendum debate and remain open online for one week, closing at 12:00pm on Monday 10th June (Week 9). You can vote by going to The result will be announced online as soon as possible, once all votes have been counted and any outstanding issues have been resolved.

If a majority of students vote to 'No' to YUSU remaining affiliated to NUS, YUSU will leave the NUS in a year's time. If a majority of students vote 'yes' to NUS affiliation or the vote does not reach quorum (5% of the student body), YUSU will remain affiliated to NUS for at least the next three years.