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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 10:08 GMT
Students vote on union membership
Glasgow University students are voting on whether to join the National Union of Students (NUS).

Robert Mackie, co-editor of the Glasgow University Guardian newspaper, reports.

A motion to hold a campus-wide referendum on NUS membership is designed to give students a voice on a subject that has not been voted on for 14 years.

It was passed in October by the Glasgow University Students' Representative Council (SRC) which represents 23,000 students.

University of Glasgow Tower
Student bodies said Glasgow University had a unique structure

The SRC does not believe joining the NUS would serve the interests of Glasgow University students.

The opinion is widespread among the main student bodies on campus.

Many believe the present system serves Glasgow University students as well as, if not better than, the NUS would.

Gary Brown, president of the Queen Margaret Union, described Glasgow's set up as unique.

It consists of two separate unions, a sports association and the SRC.

"The representation the NUS offer is appalling," Mr Brown said.

"Most of the issues that Glasgow students have and will face can only be solved by the set up we currently have and not necessarily at a national level."

'Loss of independence'

The primary concern for most of the student organisations surrounding NUS affiliation is funding.

If we affiliated to NUS, we could argue for the direction that national policy takes - the SRC can't do this effectively
Yes campaign spokesman

To join the NUS, student bodies must pay an affiliation fee of 50,000.

Mr Brown added: "Where does the 50,000 affiliation fee actually come from?"

The University of Glasgow will only join the NUS if turnout exceeds 15% - about 3,500 students.

Shona Morrison, president of the SRC, said: "We are confident that if students care enough about this issue then there will be a high turnout.

"The SRC already run successful services, offer representation that is relevant and specific to the needs of Glasgow University students and have a national campaigning voice within the NUS."

She added: "There is nothing wrong with the NUS in principle, but in its current form it isn't worth the loss of independence and doesn't fit the unique structure we have here."

An aerial picture of students at University of Glasgow
Students at Glasgow University can vote online in the referendum

The Glasgow University Union (GUU) has run its own independent campaign against NUS membership.

Alec Dyson, the GUU president said: "We need to show how important this issue is."

A spokesman for the NUS in Scotland said: "We currently view the referendum as an internal matter to Glasgow University students."

The yes campaign said Glasgow must join the NUS because "unity is strength and our strength is numbers".

A spokesman said: "Now more than ever there is a need to be part of the NUS.

"With top-up fees coming in and the increasing marketisation of our education system, we need the loudest possible voice to speak up for us.

"A national union of students is the only way our voices can be heard properly."

The NUS currently represents about five million students.

He added: "If we affiliated to the NUS we could argue for the direction that national policy takes - the SRC can't do this effectively."

The spokesman said the costs of joining the NUS would amount to less than 5% of total student body funding.

The University of Edinburgh affiliated with the NUS last year.

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