On 18 March, hustings were held on campus for the National Union of Students’ Presidential Election, as a part of the wider election campaign. Around 400 Students’ Unions across the UK, including the University of Sussex, are associated with the National Union of Students. This number represents approximately seven million students. 

Candidates joined the hustings, hosted in Jubilee 144, in person and via Zoom in an attempt to prove their electability to the students of Sussex where they outlined their previous experiences, with all candidates having worked in Students’ Union roles previously. Questions were posed to the attending candidates focusing on issues relating to the representation and engagement of NUS in smaller institutions, the intentions for their first 100 days as president and larger scale world events such as a discussion on the stance NUS should take on the current situation in Gaza.

The Badger had the chance to speak to Chloe Field, previous Vice President for Higher Education and the then presidential frontrunner, during her campaign. During the interview, we touched on topics ranging from the role and importance of NUS to all students, to Chloe’s aims and goals if she was successful in her bid for presidency. Field would go on to eventually drop out of the race on 8 April due to mental health reasons, stating that it “hasn’t been an easy decision” and giving her appreciation to voters: “lots of love to all those who were preparing to vote for me.”

Chloe Field at the NUS hustings held at Sussex, Image: Ada Carpenter, Senior Editor

Chloe spoke on the great work done in recent years by NUS, and the effects it has had on the life of the average student. She highlighted NUS’s campaign for immediate financial support for students during the cost of living crisis, which resulted in the raising of “£15 million into hardship funds” in universities across the country.  

Discussing her campaign policies, she told The Badger her principles of combatting the “marketisation of education,” emphasising the need to look at “radical change to the system”  instead of focusing on quick fixes. Chloe further commented on her intention to create a more decentralised NUS in terms of decision making, moving the process away from just the executive. She gave the example of establishing NUS England and more “issue based campaign groups,” suggesting the wider goal of transitioning from a “top down” to a “bottom up” approach to campaigning. 

Chloe expressed the need to remain focused on alleviating the symptoms of the poor system, but also to ascertain and tackle its causes. She identified mental health struggles as an example of this, with a failure on behalf of the system to distinguish the root causes of one of the core issues affecting the student experience. With the upcoming general election in mind, Chloe pointed out how “right now, students are not being advocated for by any major political party”. She highlighted the necessity of student engagement in politics, citing the need for increased voter registration and “making sure that students actually have something to vote for”. The take-away was that the new government must take education seriously as not just something that affects students now, but something that will affect the whole country in the future. 

Each Students’ Union within NUS nominates a number of student representatives, in proportion to the size of their student base, to attend the National Conference as a delegation, who, in turn vote for the president in the weeks beforehand. 

The seven candidates, who have been nominated by students and officers from an array of different Students’ Unions across the country, each put forward their manifestos in an attempt to demonstrate that they are the best option to lead the NUS for the following two year term. Therefore, the importance of the Sussex delegation’s decision cannot be understated. 

The voting period lasted from 8 April – 11 April and the winning candidate was announced on 12 April, a matter of days before the NUS National Conference in Blackpool later that month. The National Conference intends to shape the priorities of the union, making the election of a new president at this crucial time incredibly important for the Union’s goals.

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