Q&A With NUS President Liam Burns – Live Blog


On December 6th, Southampton University’s Students will decide whether SUSU should join the National Union of Students. Liam Burns, NUS President, has popped in to answer a few questions – from both  yes and no voters on the NUS, affiliation and the referendum itself

Please Note: this is not a endorsement of the Yes2NUS campaign; merely a factual recount of the event, with both yes and no questions.


20:00 – Farewell! And thanks for reading!

Well, that was certainly interesting; my fingers hurt, Tom’s fingers and we bid you…

Cries of why not the Cube and, with a round of applause, the debate is brought to a close




19:57 – Lastly, Jesters or Sobar?

19:55 – Question about NUS’s position on Palestine asked in jest (not a quick fire question)

“We purposefully have strong relationships with larger religious groups” “At the moment, our policy is to allow debate on campus, to maintain the safety of students on campus: “We can have debate: but there has to be a line to be drawn”

19:50 – Question moves on to why some religious speakers are allowed and some are not. Liam states it depends on the Uni, the person, but cannot explain indiviual cases.

“Our welfare campaign has worked on inter-faith over the last four years. Issues around speakers on campus – we now have a dedicated project for this. We also have a dedicated staff member for our people”

19:45 – How can NUS support religious students? They’re underrepresented.

“That’s where the membership comes in. You can actually affect our policy” “During the student protests, you didn’t get to dictate or have input on what our policy is. We can’t stop you from coming; its a protest. We want you there”

19:42 – The Student prostests; How does it change our position? We attended them nonetheless

Generally, I think the consensus on that why is that SUSU needs to improve relations between the main campus and site students.

 19:41 – Long Q&A debate about site students; how NUS will affect them?

“It has allow us to bring affiliation fees down and we no longer rely on such fees for most of our income”

“We’ve taken sponsorship from lots of companies, such as spotify, as we feel they are something that appeals to students. This money props up the NUS and allows us to give more more into our Universities”

19:40 – How do you explain the increase commercialisation of the NUS? Sites like Spotify are being sold as the best place to advertise to students

“We want to go into the next general election with Southampton, where we can challenge the flawed education changes that have come in”

“NUS is not defined by having an impact every four years when elections are on”

“We failed to get it stopped, but it has become the defining issue of the coalition government. We helped that”

“We got loans for part-time students increase, which weren’t there before”

Liam: ” We failed on the core objective of stopping the increase in fees. But we did have a government that had promised not to increase fees.”

19:36 – Student Fee Time!

Strange mix that; Ruby Wax & the NUS.

Make of that what you will – I’m sure if you put NUS & Ruby Wax in to google, you’ll get something.

Answer was something about the NUS intervening, one officer being unjustly dismissed and that they contacted Ruby Wax who threatened not to attend the graduation and it was sorted from there.

We lost another question again – it’s hard-work this live blogging, trust me. People talk fast!

“That was said in regards to NUS Scotland and its power there; not in regards to the NUS as a national body”

19:30 – “St. Andres would have more than average political clout as they’re a reputable union” – do you actually agree with this?

Sam Ling: “We have cheap drinks already; we keep that artificially lower – cheaper than other Pubs and Clubs around Southampton. That wouldn’t change”

Liam: “If your union don’t think it’s worth joining the buying consortium, then they don’t have to. It is worth it according to an independent auditors.”

19:27 – In regards to the buying consortium, how much double Vodka and Smirnoff? How can you justify ‘Blue Monday’ – giving away NUS cards for £1?

“This is because the poorest would be cut off…I certainly don’t think education is just about a job if thats what your saying”

“That was taken out of contest. The full article says that if you had given us a false choice between cutting the number of students, or the number of resources, then cutting the number of resources would be preferable.”

19:22 – “‘We want as many people to get one (a degree) as possible, regardless of quality?'” – how do you respond to this comment you made?

Liam : “You’re an excellent student union; simple as that. We want you to vote yes to become a member so you can help us campaign. We believe as a collectivism, so we want student leaders to be part of that”

 19:18 – Why do you want us to affiliate? Couldn’t you work on issues about students nationally rather than getting us to affiliate?

Okay, not very controversial then. It was a question by email, so not much debate on the issue.

Liam: “We work through student unions. We are not a trade union; we don’t talk to individual students one by one, but Sabbs represent the students. It hinges on students holding their Sabbs to account”

Just to say; (and blatant plug), Liam stated to us earlier that he thinks Sabbs should be allow to campaign. He said as political-elected leaders, that is their role and responsibility to do so. (You’ll see more in a upcoming interview with him soon)

Controversial one this; especially considering the debate over whether Sabbs should or should not be allowed to campaign

19:13 – Is The Nus Just for Sabbs; not for students?

“I’m against the current scheme used to allow some foreign students

“We managed to get those students to stay for another year; we’re currently lobbying ministers to improve on this”

19:11 – A question is asked about the situation of London Met and its international students

“I’ve spent my time in Scotland fighting tuition fees and Scotland still doesn’t have them. It’s not just off the top of my head; I have experience in it and I’ve had ideas come from the table from other student unions on how to fight it”

19:09 – Liam, considering you haven’t been in education for six years and you went to university in Scotland where you don’t have to pay tuition fees, how well do you feel you can represent students on such issues?

19:07 – We also had a question on why other Russell Group Universities weren’t part of the NUS; but considering that most are – Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester etc. – it didn’t get far.

Liam: “No, but we’ll get back to you on that…We don’t have individual students that are pooling cash; we have societies and sports that pool cash

19:05 – Do you know the figure on the amount that you give back to students?

I don’t agree that a student would be happy seeing an article like that and not being able to get a rebuttal. Would they really get a rebuttal on an article like that?

19:02 – Just to say; being exposed to quotes which aren’t your views, and talking about that, isn’t that part of what uni is all about?

My colleague should have called up the union and then the union decide from there.

19:01 – So Leeds Met agreed with the NUS on this?

“It’s been approved by the majority of our members”

“I wouldn’t disagree that Nick Griffin shouldn’t appear on question time, but if you see Nick Griffin talking on your campus on the student paper then we wouldn’t agree with that. The policy is a NUS requirement, but there is discussion on it;  you don’t have to opt in or out.”

19:00 – But do you not think he should be allowed to as freedom of speech is very important? We should all Nick Griffin to make he case; everyone knows it wrong and by saying it on things like Question Time, he has made himself look like a fool.

“The controversy has come out because one officer came out and wrote a letter and didn’t ask the students’ union in the first place.”

Liam: “Freedom of speech is a flawed argument in this. If I came out at uni; he idea that a student newspaper would come out with an article with Nick Griffin saying that two gays kissing is creepy, then I wouldn’t be happy with that. Campuses and Universities should be safe havens from such thoughts”

The example given was a interview with BNP leader Nick Griffin by student at Leeds Met University; you can find that here. The NUS wrote a open letter for its removal.

Just to clarify; the issue in discussed here is the NUS’s No platform scheme, where the NUS refuses to give platforms to racists and fascists

18:54 – What’s your stance on the no platform policy? Especially considering the recent events in Leeds?

“We have no influence over what events, products or societies you run. Your student union decides that”

“There will be some products that have to appear, but we won’t stop products. And if you don’t want to, then you ask for dispensation”

“If you want no change, then you can. When you have 200 students wanting to buy things, costs come down. Thats how it work – collective buying and your Auditor’s report shows it will save you money”

18:50 – What will be the influence of NSSL – the NUS buying consortium – on our Union shops and businesses?

“Role of NUS is too make you political, but to improve students’ rights”

“We created the biggest commons rebellion, second to Iraq War, on tuition fees”

“No. We were critical of the government in many aspects while labour was in power. In terms of how we treat political parties, I don’t think that we are biased to any political party”

18:47 – “Is NUS a Labour Club?”

18:44 – We apologise, but we missed the question on this one, but answer was about how Liam would like SUSU, a good Union, involved in NUS to improve the collective power of the organisation

“We are also far less reliant on these affiliation fees; they use to be 90% of our budget, now 40% with plans to get it down to 30% in the next few years”

He continues: “It’s calculated in such a way that so each affiliated institutions pays a fair amount; thats the role of the NUS, as a collective body.

Liam: “Frankly, you are; the affiliation fee is based on your University’s size and thus it cannot be put against the cost of smaller universities, colleges and higher education instituions” – and argues the fee is only £1.50 per student

18:39Considering the 50k affiliation fee, how do we know we aren’t paying for other students and Universities?

Liam: “Digital is in order to let students create apps. It will not damage the independence  of the University’s media sites or their computer systems:

18:38 – First Question: Antony asks about the affect the digital scheme will have on the Union, especially considering 

18:38 – The way it will work is three questions at a time; then if there is a longer debate afterwards, it will facilitate discussion on the issues

18:37 – And, at last, its Q&A time!

18:36 – We’ve now moved onto National Campaigns – and, of course, the student fee rise has raised its ugly head. Liam says that the became the “defining legacy” of the coalition

18:35 – One was even a nice montage of students having fun

18:34 – It’s a very nice presentation indeed. We’ve had a few “cheesy videos” showing how the NUS helps all students; not just Sabbatical Officers

18:31Examples such as Spotify, working with NUS Extra,  and Chidren in Need are given as examples of how NUS has developed who they work with.

18:29 – He’s now moved on to talk about some NUS projects, such as the Be A Champion scheme – which aimed to get students involved in the Olympics – as well as Green Impact, to encourage student and university green projects.

18:27 – Jamie, of NUS, is still presenting. He’s giving examples of how it’s not only Sabbs that get training and help. Involves 250 ‘liberation activists’.

18:23 – The powerpoint stated five core strategic aims: Winning on funding and participation; Making education better; Securing a fairer society; Transforming students through activities and development; Building strong students’ unions

18:20 – So basically, just to explain whats going on currently, Jamie Scudamore – Union Programmes Development Coordinator – is going through a nice presentation about what the NUS is all about.

18:18 – If you’re looking for some background information about both the NUS and the upcoming referendum – the good, the bad and the ugly – remember to check it out all here.

18:15 – Your hosts for the event will be our news editor, Tom Durham, and our politics editor, Alexander Green.

18:12 – Welcome to the Wessex Scene’s coverage of the Q&A session with NUS President Liam Burns

18:10 – Hi Everyone!



Discussion4 Comments

  1. avatar

    Affiliation fee is also calculated on the grant perceived by student union from university. Which means if SUSU is lucky to get a good grant from Southampton Uni, we’ll pay more to the NUS…

  2. avatar

    The question at 18:44 was: when looking at SUSU compared to other affiliated unions, what gaps in SUSU could the NUS help fill – how could the NUS help us develop?

    I thought this was an interesting event, although a little disappointing. The previous Yes event lead by the sabbaticals had the passion and enthusiasm I feel this was missing. I know this was a different kind of event and maybe I’m just a sucker for a heartfelt speech.

    Starting off with a pre-recorded and untailored presentation felt a little corporate, like a pitch from a consulting company (or iSolutions). We could have watched those videos at home, but we have people from the NUS right here! I’d have liked to have seen the NUS people talking themselves about why they care about the NUS, what the NUS has to offer us and why it is right for Southampton.

    The Q&A was more interesting, although given Liam’s reputation and the preparation, I was really expecting to come away impressed and enthused, rather than being back to stage 1 again. There wasn’t much in the way of direct benefits because SUSU is already incredibly strong, and even with regards to a voice, we have a lot of political clout already, and as was said on the night, the NUS would benefit from Southampton in it’s collective power, possibly more than the other way around.

    Overall though, an interesting event and did clarify some important points.

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