NUS ACT Branch Faces Dissolution After Disaccreditations

The NUS ACT branch faces extinction as a result of the recent disaccreditation of the University of Canberra SRC, and the failure of the NUS to thus far meet ANUSA’s conditions for reaccreditation.

The NUS (National Union of Students) Constitution as written requires that the ACT branch be dissolved for lack of represented members. State branches exist to enact the policies of the NUS within their state, through state-based campaigns, activities and publications. The Constitution requires that a state branch be dissolved “if the member organisations no longer represent at least 4,000 EFTSLs”, essentially requiring the equivalent of 4,000 full time students. Currently, no ACT branch universities are accredited – although UNSW and other universities have campuses in Canberra, they are either represented in the state of their main campus, or not accredited. It appears therefore that zero students being represented by the branch.

The timeline for the dissolution is unclear, however, and both the UC and ANU students’ associations are still listed on the NUS website. It appears, according to the Constitution, that the branch will cease to exist from this year’s National Conference in December, with no 2018 ACT office bearers elected. ACT Branch President Nick Douros and NUS National President Sophie Johnston did not respond to Observer’s repeated requests for comment, and have made no public comments about whether the state branch will dissolve as per the Constitution. National General Secretary Nathan Croft declined to comment.

The University of Canberra Student Representative Council (UCSRC) voted 9-1 to disaffiliate from the NUS on the 31st of August. As a result, the UCSRC is not currently accredited to the NUS, and will not send any delegates to the 2017 National Conference (NatCon), according to UCSRC President Darcy Egan. The vote was a result of perceived inadequacies in the services of the NUS, as well as the initially proposed reaccreditation fee of $76,018.

ANUSA is currently disaccredited, pending certain conditions so far not met by the NUS. ANUSA voted against accreditation in 2016, sending observers to the annual NatCon, instead of delegates with voting power. In March of this year, the Association voted to accredit, on the condition that transparency and accessibility requirements  be met, including the publication of guides, financial reports, and meeting minutes. NUS has so far failed to do this, and so without any change to the SRC’s position, ANUSA will be disaccredited as of this year’s NatCon. However, ANUSA President James Connolly told Observer that “the NUS has been receptive to the KPIs”, and he has “had a number of constructive conversations with the ACT State Branch President of the NUS as well as other National Office Bearers concerning each KPI”.

Connolly told the ANUSA SRC recently that he believed “the ACT state branch of the NUS [would cease to] exist… if the UC decision stands”. Freya Willis, an NUS delegate elected at this year’s ANUSA election, highlighted the significance of the ACT branch, stating that it “has been involved organising days of action and mobilising students around issues that affect us”. She added, “Most importantly, the ACT would lose its voice on the National Executive. We cannot change a system we shut ourselves out of.”