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Stand up: Liam Burns
|Features||Wed, 02 May 2012||Tweet|
by Lucy Keen
NUS President Liam Burns was in town today for a Q + A sesh in School 2 tonight. We know you were washing your hair, so The Stand spoke to him to about potential membership for St Andrews, the referendum to be held this November, and his parents. [N.B. these views are those of Liam Burns, and not all of these facts have been verified by The Stand]
The Stand: How much would the fee be?
Liam: £21,000 per year. But that figure requires context. We are reducing that figure year on year, with a commitment to reduce the reliance on that source of income to 30% in 3 years time. Importantly, if any student union member does not have the money to pay, we don't ask for it, even if they run into financial hardship, year on year. We instead would go in and help them overcome financial difficulties. We also often give our members payment in return- Aberdeen University recently received £15,000 funding from us. We figured out it would cost each St Andrews student roughly £1.80 per year, less than a bus ticket.
What kind of benefits do we get in return?
The benefits are numerous. Your Student Association website is currently run by a private company which makes money from the advertising. The NUS digital project would help money from advertising to go straight back into the Union instead.* NUS extra is an important part too. The Scottish Government have also worked with NUS Scotland to set aside £30 million to increase student support in the form of loans and grants.
NUS membership also means being part of our new tenancy deposit scheme; we are helping to form the rules on legislation (to be implemented next year) on helping support students who unfairly get money taken from their deposit- for things like carpet cleaning. At the moment you can only take the issue to small claims court. With the scheme you can examine the issue through a third party.
Have any other Unions joined the NUS recently? How has it worked out for them?
Sunderland University joined a month ago. They had a 93% "yes" vote of 1750 students voting out. They came to our conference and loved it. There have been 6 referendums so far this year, all with a 90% and above "yes" vote. All have had a lot of satisfaction.
Why are the NUS so keen on St Andrews?
This cannot and should not be about 'hard selling' to students. You have such a great Students Representative Council up here, that the NUS will be better itself because of your membership. The SRC and students deserve to influence issues nationally. We are in no way saying you are not good enough without it, and there is a misconception that St Andrews will lose independence because of it. The NUS cannot and will not ever tell The Student's Association what to do. The relationship is that your Union is MY boss.
Can you see any disadvantage to membership?
I can understand and respect an ideological opposition to membership, if you are opposed to collectives. If you are of the Conservative political persuasion this may prove a problem.
You're from Glenrothes, are you going to visit your family while you're up here?
I haven't even told them I'm in town...I have to be in Exter tomorrow! I'll see them in a couple of weeks.
*(The Stand has been alerted to the fact that the Union's current contractual obligations with its web host could hold back this service and that the NUS will receive 15% of advertisement funds for site upkeep)