The Cost of NUS affiliation – A Quick Glance at the Auditor’s Report


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. 

For more information, check out the full Auditor’s Report here as well as a minutes of Q&A meeting between the campaign teams and two of the Auditors.

The Referendum will be taking place tomorrow; Thursday 6th December.


Discussion5 Comments

  1. avatar

    is this the same report SUSU paid £5k for?!?!


    Yeah. To be fair, the auditors did try their best to get the information, but the NUS wasn’t prepared to give most of it to them.

  2. avatar

    1. Typo alert. 🙂
    “There are currently 40-50 such courses every dear…”

    2. I was present on the meeting with the Auditors, they said that the table they have presented in the end with “possible”, “probable” and “definite” costs and savings is a more “fair” assessment than just saying £31000.
    If you take a closer look, most of the savings are NUSs own estimates, which are majorly not backed up with any facts at all. Auditors have confirmed this themselves.

  3. avatar

    It’s worth noting that the final figures don’t include the lost of retrospective payments the uni already recieve eg 1k each from strongbow and fosters, and money saved from buying with th Uni. Also the NUS Extra card discount is basically a guess on a uni of our size, if we were inline with the national average of card uptakes the money would be closer to 5-6k to the uni a year. And as you said other discounts from NUSSL are just NUS figures with no backing like the auditors said.

  4. avatar

    It’s actually a massive shame that SUSU spent quite a large amount of money in getting the report to only be given ONE fact; the cost of NUS affiliation.

    Everything else listed is just “possible” or “likely” or “potential” or “maybe”. There are barely any concrete and factual points.

    It actually makes me wonder whether the NUS purposely didn’t give figures as to deter people from voting against affiliation. Most likely though.

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