NUS Scotland must establish itself as an anti-racist organization

What is the issue conference is looking at? 

NUS Scotland must establish itself as an anti-racist organization 


Which Students’ Unions have been involved in proposing? 

Aberdeen University Students' Association 


What’s the issue and how does it affect students? 

The issue of racism in HE is both structural and cultural, which racialized students and staff members navigate in their everyday lives both in, and out, of their work/learning places. Starting from grassroots activism, anti-racist work is becoming institutionalized through policies and strategies, establishing anti-racism as institutional practice. Simultaneously, activists and allies work hard to embed anti-racism as essential behavioral practice to transform education as a safe space for people of all ethnicities.  

The role of student unions in this change is significant, because student officers are often the drivers of this change within the union, and university more widely, due to them becoming the "diversity” by matter of entering white spaces. Individual officers bring anti-racist activism into the job role, without staff support, due to the non-existence of staff hired for liberation work. The difficulty of institutionalizing anti-racism in student unions is also based on the short term of the officers end up leaving the role before structural changes have been implemented. 

This is also the experience of racialized student officers when they join in NUS Scotland’s activities. NUS Scotland lacks focus on widening access for a more diverse set of student officers to join its community; and in its conferences, campaigns, and events these demographics are an afterthought and not reflected in its core values. Effectively, the team behind this work does not reflect the diversity of the transformed student population in Scotland, or the officers leading students’ unions today.  

Students in students’ union jobs, volunteering roles, sports clubs, societies, and forums experience first-hand the lack of anti-racism. Racialized people continue to share experiences of racial discrimination, racialization, and overwhelming whiteness of communities that demand assimilation from non-white students to be accepted. Unfortunately, not all students’ unions have officers who are working towards implementing anti-racism in all aspects of their work, due to lack of knowledge, staff capacity, or interest. 


What changes would we like to see in society to change this? 

The education sector has great advantage in society to lead change and challenge power structures that have adverse effects for people in minority and vulnerable positions. Student unions should have the tools to join this effort together with activists and universities to normalize anti-racism as good practice.   

This is a topic we cannot dismiss due to it being an uncomfortable and difficult process, since it is about the wellbeing of our students, and transforming education into an experience that is equal and inclusive to all. To address the inequities of societal structures, education comes first both structurally as institutions of equity, but also as places to learn best practice. 


Impact Assessment

How does it impact FE students / Apprentices?   

This policy would impact all students and apprentices that engage with NUS Scotland’s work. 


How does it impact on International Students, Postgraduate Students, Part Time and Mature Students? 

This policy would impact all students and apprentices that engage with NUS Scotland’s work. 


How does it impact on black, disabled, LGBT+, trans and women students? 

This policy will particularly impact Black students, including those who are women, disabled, LGBT+, or trans.  


Does this apply across the UK or specifically in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland? 

Implementing this policy internally would require discussion and cooperation within NUS across the UK. Two organisations make up the National Union of Students: NUS UK, which leads on national student representation and campaigns, and NUS Charity, which delivers services to develop strong and healthy students’ unions. Following the independent KC-led investigation into anti-Semitism, NUS has committed to the reinstatement of their Anti-Racism and Anti-Fascism Committee, as well as reviewing existing plans, reviews, and research into one single coherent Inclusion and Liberation Strategy for NUS UK.