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Dear member


We are writing to you today because as one of our members you fund our organisation,
you decide the strategic direction of our movement, and as a collective we share
ambitions. This also means we share risks.

This letter comes off the back of some serious reflection by the organisation and its
current position. We know many of you have felt disappointed in our lack of clarity,
direction, and leadership. It is our priority to be a more effective NUS but to do that we
first need to get our house in order.

The NUS Group is facing financial difficulty. We are projected to post a significant deficit
this year without enough resource to cover the loss. The democratic and governance
reform is now doubly necessary to address the structural issues in the group which have
led to the current situation.

Alongside structural problems we are facing competitors in student discounts, trading
support, and policy and strategic support. We have faced challenges to all three of these
income streams, but rarely to all three at the same time. It’s important that we respond
to this competition collectively and collaboratively as a movement, if we are to continue
to protect the interests of students and students’ unions.

If we’re right and our income streams suffer as much as we predict we’re looking at a
£3m deficit for the group in this and future financial years. Because there are not
sufficient reserves to cover this amount we are taking urgent action to stabilise our

We have taken immediate advice on the options available to us to ensure we remain
solvent. It looks likely this will include a combination of borrowing against the building
we own, making cuts to staff, and turning off some of the activity we deliver. This will
free up some cash but it will not address the underlying governance issues.

We are therefore undertaking three streams of work:

• Get to safety – immediate measures to save money, generate cash, and become
financially viable within six months
• Reform – radical reforms to our corporate and democratic structures at Strategic
Conversation, Company Law Meeting and National Conference – the purpose of
the reforms will be to drastically simplify and modernise NUS
• Rebuilding – governance is the start of the journey not the end. We’ll need to
quickly deliver a clear strategy and a new way of working.

Your role

The reason we work in our movement is because of our fundamental belief that students
can change education, the places they live, and ultimately society as well. Our ambition
is no less than to build a just and sustainable future. The reason we commit to work like
the poverty commission and closing the black attainment gap, the reason we invest in
revolutionary services like TOTUM and Trading support, and the reason we get up every
single day is the profound belief that students’ unions are an innate good.

It is this combination of political efficacy, service provision, and financial stability, which
allows our movement to prosper. Over the past few weeks it has become apparent we
are some way from achieving this ambition.
The causes of our problems are bigger than we can tackle alone. We need students’
unions to engage in reshaping our governance to address the root causes of our issues
and help us reimagine the organisation we can be.

In this light we ask five immediate things of you:

• Attend Strategic Conversation

• Send any thoughts on the future of NUS to Peter, at

• Make sure Student Officers are aware of what’s happening and why it’s taking

• Pay attention to Peter’s weekly email, invite us to your regional CEO networks,
and keep talking to us

• Work with us to protect the interests of students and students’ unions from
competitors who exist for the purpose of profit and not people at their heart.

The Process

As you may know we have prioritised establishing a Turnaround Board to address the
long-standing governance issues within the group.

We are both in our current roles till summer 2019. By then we need to deliver nothing
less than a transformation of NUS’ financial position, corporate governance, and fulfil the
mandate of NUS Conference 2017 on democratic reform.

We will ask you to play a role in helping us shape these reforms at Strategic
Conversation, National Conference and a Company Law meeting. We will tell you more
about this in the coming weeks and months.

We want to reassure our members that our Boards are addressing these issues with
urgency, our staff team is working to get us to a position of stability, and we are
enlisting any external expertise necessary.

We understand how this uncertainty may feel for you so there’s going to be a weekly
surgery, an online feedback tool, and an element of Strategic Conversation which will be
free to attend.

By National conference 2019 we will have a set of proposals for reforming NUS. It is a
difficult time, but we are not feeling despondent or cynical as we cannot afford to be.
NUS has been here for 96 years and as we approach our 100 th birthday our historical
mission is more important than ever. Where inequality in education exists we have
campaigned against it, where barriers stop students getting in and getting on we have
pulled them down, and when students have felt like dropping out our movement has
picked them up.

Every generation of our movement faces challenges like this. It’s now up to us to act
with the urgency, bravery, and compassion, this moment requires.

Shakira Martin - NUS National President
Peter Robertson - Acting Chief Executive