My experience of NUS Conference
I was invited to be a Panel member at NUS conference this year to talk about my campaign around NHS funds this year. The campaign was a collaboration with other Unions in Canterbury. Over the past couple of years, Canterbury Hospital, local to one of our campuses, has seen departments close, including its Accident and Emergency, due to funding being slashed. With this directly impacting every student at Canterbury UCA, I began a research and awareness campaign concerning the registration of students to a local GP.
Canterbury has a large student population and from a residents committee I attend in partnership with the council, it was discussed that many are not registered to a local GP. This fact, seeming small, in reality means funds are not allocated to more highly populated districts, and local hospitals become strained, overcrowded, and understaffed.
As a Small and Specialist Arts Union, promotion and participation in campaigns can be challenging. Courses require a higher quantity of time dedicated to them due to the volume of course work within the practical arts and because of this, students have less of a desire to be on campus when they do not need to be. To overcome this, we try to be as creative with campaign ideas, and ensure involvement is as quick and easy as possible.
The campaign was launched at our January ‘Re-Union’ fair, an event focussing on each UCA campus individually. Local charities, religious groups, liberations, Union clubs and societies, and many more attended to encourage students to become more engaged within the community and share information.
For this campaign, three vases were set out on the Union stall; registered locally, registered at home, and not registered. Tokens were used to signify which category members identified with, representing the funding of a single person and where it is currently being attributed. The vases now reside the Canterbury Union office where anyone who pops in can contribute. Being both visual and simple to take part in has sparked intrigue and interest from both staff and students and gives us the opportunity to raise greater awareness of the campaign.
Being asked to be a panel member and to discuss this subject With Rachel O’Brien, The NUS Disabled Students Officer was such an honour. I got the chance to talk to students across the country about MY campaign and the importance of raising awareness, building a footprint and making students’ aware of these issues but also whilst doing this – we were able to gather data that then helped us in the union and gave the Local Council some stats around our GP registration.
I won’t lie, I was pretty nervous and I was pretty sure I was visibly shaking the entire time. However, I’d do it again in a heartbeat! Conference is a fun and exciting experience and being there for two days made me feel like I was part of something huge and it’s a big deal – NUS conference is the largest democratic meeting in Europe! I got to be a part of this, I may not of been a delegate, but it was nice to catch up with friends I made in training and contacts I’ve made throughout my year in post and tell them to “Make good choices” – Normally got a laugh from the Delegates!