Instant Replay: NUS Student Unions Conference

Are you interested in strengthening your global competency? On March 6, Geoff Combs, executive director of Campus Center and Event Services at University of Massachusetts–Boston, presented a webinar to introduce members to our sister association, the National Union of Students – United Kingdom, and its Student Unions Conference. Emily Thompson-Bell, the head of quality at National Union of Students, was also available to help answer questions our members had. If you missed the live program, it has been archived and is available in the On Demand section of the ACUI Library.

The National Union of Students – UK is a sister organization of ACUI. NUS has over 600 member unions, which amounts to more than 95% of all higher education and further education unions in the United Kingdom. Through their member students’ unions, NUS represents the interest of more than 7 million students. Their leaders have been attending ACUI Annual Conferences regularly for the last several years and NUS members have also been attending ACUI Region VIII Conferences.NUS Logo

NUS Mission and Vision

The mission of NUS is: To shape the future of education and help create a fairer, prosperous society.

Their vision statement states: “NUS is a pioneering, innovative and powerful campaigning organization: the national voice of students. We will fight barriers to education, empower students to shape both a quality learning experience and the world around them, supporting influential, democratic and well-resourced students’ unions.”

The Students’ Unions Conference

The conference is a two-day experience attended by 800 students and staff from student unions in the United Kingdom, which includes unions from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It is similar to the ACUI Annual Conference in structure, format, and design. There are two keynote presentations, mixed with educational session blocks, community of practice networking, union recognition, and meals. They also have an experience similar to ACUI’s Expo at the ACUI Annual Conference for corporate partners, but also an expo for people who provide support and “heart-centered relationships” with students’ unions, such as non-profit groups, lawyers, and others.

While the conferences may be similar, the structure and administration of U.K. student unions and student life is much different than in the United States. Attending the Students’ Unions Conference gives professionals from the United States the opportunity to explore new ideas, programs, services, and alternative methods for student union and student life management.

Benefits of Attending

ACUI members who wish to attend the NUS Students’ Unions Conference can look forward to networking with staff and students throughout the United Kingdom, participating in educational sessions on a variety of topics related to students’ unions, student development, and student life. Attendees gain a greater understanding of the similarities and differences between students’ unions and student life in the United Kingdom compared to the United States. Since more than half of the U.K. attendees are students, this conference provides student leaders a chance to connect and interact with their U.K. counterparts.

Tips for Attendees

Geoff Combs shared tips he has learned for attending this conference. He said the sooner you book airfare, the less you will pay for your ticket. The airport in Birmingham is close to the NEC and IBIS Styles hotel. If you would like to visit London after the conference, you can book a Birmingham arrival and a London departure. Traveling by rail in the United Kingdom is easy! NUS has a history of reserving a few educational sessions (a.k.a. conference workshops) for attendees from the United States. Slots are not guaranteed, and are selected by the conference planning team. Combs said he would be happy to share a proposal form with anyone interested, along with submission information.

The program wrapped up with questions and answers. One person who attended the program asked about how the conference handles the diverse mix of both students and professionals. Thompson-Bell said proposal submissions are required to state what audience is targeted by the program to help guide students and professionals to sessions meant for them. Members who had attended previously and representatives from NUS talked about how different the approaches are between the United Kingdom and United States and what they learned from that experience. If you would like to learn more about attending the NUS Students’ Unions Conference, contact Geoff Combs for more information. You can also continue the conversation in the International Education Community of Practice discussion forum.

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