If you ask any student at Southampton University about SUSU’s proposed NUS affiliation, the fact that they’re most likely to know will be concerning the cost. No wonder – with an affiliation fee of £51,000, it is no laughing matter.
With this fee set to be a major talking point, Southampton Students’ Union commissioned a audit in September in order to give a fully informed framework of both the costs and benefits of joining the NUS. This Due Diligence Report, based on information given by both SUSU and the NUS, was taken independently by auditors in order to primarily asses the potential financial cost of joining the national body. The scope of the review is not to persuade students of the Union; merely to be used as a tool to help them form a fully informed opinion on the matter. This article aims to synopses the report into a easier more digestible form.
Firstly, the major – and only certain/compulsory – cost of joining NUS would be the affiliation fee; this would amount to £51,493 being paid every year. This is essentially worked out by considering the number and make-up of Southampton University’s student body, thus would be unlikely to see any significant change in the near future.
This affiliation fee allows automatic membership into the NUS, NUS Connect and NCVO – as well as discount membership and free entry to events to CharityComms, providing around £2,000 of that money back straight away.
So what are the other ‘benefits’ and savings of the affiliation? The report was mandated to investigate three of these.
The first is concerning NUSSL – NUS Services Limited – which works as a buying consortium allowing student unions, from around the country, to negotiate the best deals for their stock. The report indicates an expected saving of of 16,351 from use of the NUSSL rather than SUSU’s own costs.
A large percentage of this – over £12,000 – would come from Bars’ stock such as alcohol and soft drinks. Within the rules of joining the NUSSL, there would be some products that would be compulsory (rather than a competitor), though it would still generally allow unlisted NUSSL products to be stocked.
This would be a difference in brands rather than restrictions on products; one often mooted point is the Carlsberg would be the draught beer; the rules only dictate one tap is stocked, however. It is not the only draught lager on offer, but the Union would be breaking the rules if it purchased Fosters, the certain draught beer, from an outside company.
Much of these savings would be nullified by the loss of ‘retro costs’; these occur each year -and essentially extra bonuses based on how much and what SUSU sells; an amount of £10, 786. Different retro costs would come into place if SUSU did join NUSSL.
NUSSL has also claimed it could bring around £5000 retail and £3000 Licensed trade savings through discounts and promotions of the NUS Connect programmes; these claims have remained unverified however.
It must be said that joining NUSSL is not compulsory if the Union does choose to affiliate
– Training & Development
Affiliation would also allow the Union’s Sabbaticals to be trained by the NUS; currently, most of the training is in-housing with on external course of team building (with a net cost of £3,600 in the 2012/13 schedule).
There are currently 40-50 such courses every year – with a variety of lengths and focus – and the report indicates using them would be a benefit as it would both free management time as well as build relationship with other Union and their Sabbatical officers. It is noted by the NUS that 94% of persons are extremely satisfied with their training. The expected cost of this is estimated at £5,000.
Membership would also allow attendance of NUS conferences, which are free including accommodation on the nights of the conference.
– NUS Extra
NUS Extra, the often-talked about student saving operation, is the last source of potential benefit. The NUS Extra card – which can be purchased for one, two or three years – allows savings for students with companies such as Spotify and Amazon. Whilst it is impossible to predict how much money would possibly come from this source – due to it being based on take up by students – the estimated figure is around £9,000.
Considering all these figures, the Auditor’s Report believes that the net cost of affiliation could be reduced to around £32,000 – or to be exact, £31,841.
The Referendum will be taking place tomorrow; Thursday 6th December.