NUS Scotland 2016-17: Review of the Year As Vonnie, Rob and Angela prepare to leave NUS Scotland behind, we take a look at what’s been achieved during the last academic year.

It’s been another busy year at NUS Scotland. At a national level, we’ve secured wins for students with the introduction of support for postgraduates, free bus travel for apprentices and the retention of bursaries for nursing students. As a direct result of our 2016 Scottish Elections campaign, we’ve also seen the Scottish Government announce an independent review into the student support system. At a membership level, we’ve empowered students’ associations across the country providing training, networking opportunities, events and democratic support to help our members strengthen and grow.

This year we’ve campaigned on a number of issues – here’s a snapshot of what we’ve achieved.

As part of our priority campaign, #SupportUs we went round Freshers’ Fairs to find out more about the problems that students face with the support system, made our voices heard at our #SupportUs carols outside the Scottish Parliament on the day the draft budget was being announced and had representation from all political parties at our #SupportUs lobby.

Hundreds of students from Scotland joined NUS UK’s United for Education demo on #Nov19.

Together with the University of Strathclyde Students’ Association we held Scotland’s first ever Refugee Student Summit bringing together students, colleges, universities and stakeholders from the third sector to share best practice in supporting refugee and asylum seeking students.

We told candidates in the local council elections that it’s Our Community Too, calling on councils to consult student parents in the expansion of childcare hours, to use the powers they have to improve student housing and to create a council tax exemption for apprentices. Candidates across political parties supported the campaign.

We achieved a record high of 14 institutions taking part in our Healthy Body Healthy Mind Awards this year, highlighting the link between mental health, physical activity and smoking.

We raised awareness of the mental health needs of students and lobbied the Scottish Government to include students in their mental health strategy and secured a commitment in the new Mental Health Strategy to continue supporting the work of our Think Positive project.

Made #GenerationVote a reality. We were part of a UK wide voter registration drive that registered over 2 million people under 34 to register to vote in the snap General Election. We also spoke up for students and young people in our #GE2017 election manifesto.

We have secured a commitment from the Scottish Government to extend free bus travel to Modern Apprentices and directly engaged with more apprentices than ever before this year, consulting with hundreds through events with the National Society of Apprentices. We have made strides towards bringing apprentices fully into NUS membership, supporting the NSoA to represent their needs as learners.

As part of Green Impact we’ve worked with 4 universities and 4 students’ associations to train students to audit the impact their institutions are having on the environment and supported Student Switch Off at the University of Strathclyde. The Responsible Futures programme is currently running at six institutions in Scotland.

We’ve increased our social media presence, launching our Snapchat and gained an extra 700 followers on Twitter and 200 likes on Facebook.

Our policy and influencing work takes student issues to the heart of Government, to the doors of Principals and across the education sector creating real and lasting change for students.

Following our 2016 Scottish elections campaign, we secured a high level independent review of the student support system.

We kept the pressure on the Scottish Government to meet their commitment to widening access and continued to support the introduction of Scotland’s first Fair Access Commissioner to help ensure Scotland’s education system becomes truly accessible for everyone – in particular those from the least well off backgrounds.

Following the release of our Bairn Necessities report we hosted workshops on campus supporting the development of student parent networks and to work towards becoming a child friendly campus.

We campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU – and since then have been vocal on the need to ensure the future of students and young people is at the forefront of the Brexit discussion, with NUS Scotland President Vonnie Sandlan calling for this at every opportunity.

We also wrote to all colleges and universities asking them to stand up to xenophobia following the UK Government’s proposal for foreign workers. Principals from Edinburgh, Strathclyde, St Andrews, University of the West of Scotland and a number of other institutions replied to say they would not back these measures.

Following our continued pressure around postgraduate support and our involvement in the Taught Postgraduate Review we welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision to increase the loan available for postgraduate students to £10,000.

We continued the fight against the Teaching Excellence Framework in Scotland, focusing on protecting and improving a student-centred, partnership approach to education.

We ensured the Scottish Government retained bursaries for nursing students; secured an extra £1m discretionary fund for nursing and midwifery students experiencing financial hardship and saw increases to Dependent's Allowance, Single Parent Allowance and Childcare Allowance for student nurses.

It’s been a busy year for our Liberation campaigns!

We worked together with the SFC, Equate, ECU and sparqs to develop guidance for engaging students in institution’s Gender Action Plans (GAP) launching this at an event and highlighting this work at sparqs’ conference.

NUS Scotland Women’s campaign and NUS Scotland Black Students’ campaign jointly hosted Inspire Her Future, a leadership event for women leaders and aspiring women leaders.

Created a series of Inspire Her Future case studies featuring women in traditionally male dominated areas. We received over 40 case studies highlighting inspirational women students across Scotland and collated the best in our our video and blog series.

To mark the start of Hate Crime Awareness Week, we called on universities and colleges to do more to support students to report hate crimes on campus and have worked with NUS UK to develop a hate crime strategy.

Developed #ReclaimBlackStories, a photobiographic exhibition to share the reality of Black history and what it's like to live in Scotland at the moment - as told by Black students. This exhibition was showcased at students’ associations as part of Black History Month, at NUS Scotland events, at the Scottish Funding Council’s professional development day and available online.

As part of the 16 days of action we joined together with Scottish Women’s Aid to encourage students experiencing abuse to seek support.

We were a vocal member of the pro-choice campaign and organised demos and supported Engender’s call for a Scottish approach to abortion.

In October we launched ‘Don’t make racism the real horror this Hallowe’en’ as part of our campaign tackling racism and cultural stereotypes.

We supported students’ associations to organise Reclaim the Night marches with our toolkit and helped to organise Glasgow’s march.

We’ve hosted the largest ever gathering of trans students in Scotland. In March NUS Scotland Conference voted in favour of creating a trans liberation campaign.

Following our Bin the Blood Ban campaign the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee have agreed to seek the views of the Scottish Government and other organisations including the Equality Network on ending the blanket ban on donations from some members of the LGBT+ community. The Liberal Democrats have joined the call to end the blood donation ban.

Our work with students’ associations this year has seen us empower members across the country.

We got stuck into planning for the year ahead, creating a plan of work and met with 30 students’ associations over the course of July and August 2016 to find out more about their priorities and to consult on our ideas for the year.

Between March - May 2017 we ensured that over 24,000 students were able to take part in fair and democratic students’ association elections supervised by returning officers from NUS Scotland.

By the end of July – one month into the academic year – we’d already trained 81% of college students’ association officers at our headline event Lead and Change: College Student Representation.

In the last year £55,000 was put back into students' associations in Scotland as a result of NUS Extra card sales.

We supported the development of 21 college students’ associations by developing bids for additional resources, setting up advisory boards, sharing experience of HR issues, developing strategic and operational plans, reviewing constitutions, and offering advice to officers and staff.

We facilitated six staff networking events across the year including three Senior Managers Meetings for students’ association managers across Scotland covering topics ranging from PREVENT, to officer training programmes and quality students’ unions. We have also held two college students’ association staff network events and an event for student opportunities staff in Scotland.

We secured nearly £400,000 in external project funding to improve student mental health and to support the development of college students’ associations.

Our events bring members together, giving them the opportunity to network and learn.

Organised 18 events this year including The Gathering, #InspireHerFuture, our Parliamentary Reception and Scotland’s first Refugee Student Summit, enabling NUS Scotland members to share ideas and learn new skills.

We had 44 candidates standing in our elections to lead the work of NUS Scotland.

In March we celebrated the achievements of the student movement with the NUS Scotland Awards highlighting the work students’ associations have done to tackle issues with student housing, increase engagement with apprentices and make their democratic structures more accessible.

Consulted with our members on a UK wide governance review of NUS to make our representative structures more inclusive, the principles of which passed at NUS National Conference in April.

NUS Scotland's current and incoming officers (L-R): Shuwanna Aaron and Angela Alexander (NUS Scotland Women's Officers 2017-18 and 2016-17), Luke Humberstone and Vonnie Sandlan (NUS Scotland President 2017-18 and 2016-17), Jodie Waite and Rob Henthorn (NUS Scotland Vice President Education 2017-18 and 2016-17).

We couldn't have done this work without our volunteers, our member students' associations and external stakeholders. Thank you all for making 2016-17 a success and we look forward to working with you next year!

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