Yesterday we told you that the University of Adelaide’s student union had decided to no longer pay National Union of Students affiliation fees, stripping the national student body of $17,000 a year. This followed the University of Melbourne’s union deciding it no longer wanted to pay $110,000 to the NUS, and halving that to $55,000 last year.

Tipsters say we missed a few other universities. A fortnight ago, the Australian National University’s student union also decided to no longer contribute to NUS. A statement explaining the decision posted on the ANU Students’ Association website says the SRC in late February heard reports from the five students who attended the NUS national conference on behalf of the university in December 2015:

“From the information provided in these reports and through further enquiries by members of the SRC, issues were raised surrounding the effectiveness of the NUS, its governing structure, the conduct of factional delegates at the National Conference, and the Union’s failure to implement the improvements recommended by the 2015 ANUSA SRC.”

Following this, a motion to reaffiliate on March 16 failed to get traction. In a secret ballot there were 18 votes cast in favour of breaking ties with NUS, and 12 in favour of the status quo.

The loss of ANU is another blow to NUS, which now counts less than half the nation’s university student bodies as financial contributors. Crikey hears the next decision to stop paying will likely come from the University of Wollongong, where Liberal-affiliated students won many positions at the last student elections and are expected to be hostile, as Liberal students traditionally are, to the lefty campaigning organisation. Ironically, student unions are choosing to no longer contribute at a time when many are more cashed-up than they’ve been in the past. After the lean years of voluntary student unionism, many are now flush with more cash, thanks to the Student Service Amenities Fee which universities can choose to pass on to the student unions. Defeating voluntary student unionism was one of NUS’ leading campaigns during the Howard years.

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Peter Fray

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