‘Every student has a student politics experience’
AUSA leader seeks election as NUS National President
By Jake Roslin
Photo courtesy of Alisa Koester
Aberdeen University Student Association President Alisa Koester has announced her candidacy for NUS National President 2022-24. Four candidates from student unions across the UK will compete in the election which concludes on 28 March.
Koester became AUSA President a year ago, taking 61.5% of the campus ballot. ‘I have come to realise how powerful we are when we come together and exchange best practices,’ she told The Gaudie. ‘NUS provides a platform for this, but needs to be more accessible.’ Her manifesto for the full-time salaried role revolves around ‘community strengthening and unionising...
‘My main aim is to help build an NUS that listens to and empowers each of our member unions.’
The National Union of Students was created 100 years ago, and was restructured in 2020 to give more autonomy at a devolved nation level. They claim 95% of UK students are members, whose local unions and associations vote periodically on whether to remain affiliated. There have been calls for Aberdeen's disaffiliation. The latest referendum last year was inquorate, meaning Aberdeen remains affiliated until 2025.
Criticism has been levelled that NUS has both diverged from average student interests and become less powerful since its peak notoriety, approximately late 1960s until mid-1980s, when student protests and sit-ins and collaborations between NUS and trade unions were common. Agreeing ‘heavy engagement in student politics is not something that naturally comes to every student,’ Koester nevertheless argues ‘every student has a student politics experience at some point in their university life. Whether this is joining student council, being class rep, leading a society or doing a bake sale or organising a protest as a ‘one-off’ situation for a compelling cause – all these things are affecting students and students actively take part in shaping their environment...’
‘With a Conservative Westminster government, dialogue is not as easily facilitated and students are not listened to as much as they should be,’
she added. ‘However, NUS has proven to be impactful, especially when it comes to lobbying and working with the devolved Nations’ governments.’
Most traditional union action on the Aberdeen campus recently has been that of staff unions UCU and Unison, rather than AUSA, involving their members’ long-running dispute with universities over pay and conditions, leading to suggestions it is staff not students who are the radicals in 2022. A few students have even expressed hostility to striking teaching staff on social media, on grounds of whether they are receiving value for their tuition fees. Koester believes student and staff unions need to ‘build bridges’. ‘Students are keen to support staff in their wellbeing... Students are tired and just want to get back to normality now that campuses finally start to open again.’
The other candidates in the election for NUS National President are Shaima Dallali (City University of London Students' Union), Radical Haslam (Manchester Metropolitan Students' Union) and Vaios Koukouletsos, (Southampton Solent Students' Union).