NUS President in Penryn: “If we don’t get our act together, NUS will not exist in the future”

Written by Ivan Edwards |


The President of the National Union of Students (NUS) Shakira Martin has addressed the financial crisis facing the Union, warning that “If we’re overspending, if we don’t have enough money to do what we need to do, then we’re fucked”, in a talk to students at Penryn Campus.


Shakira Martin pictured at the NUS’s National Conference


Following reports that the NUS is unable to meet a £3 million deficit this year from existing reserves, Martin said that “If we don’t get our act together, NUS will not exist for the future”, and that she will “go to the bones of [the NUS] structure” in her final year as President.


In a candid talk to students of Falmouth and Exeter Universities, hosted by FXU Community and Welfare President Harry Bishop, she also opened up about:


  • Problems under predecessor Malia Bouattia
  • Factionalism in the NUS – and why you can be friends with Tories
  • How she is affected by trolls on social media
  • Why the government and the police are getting it wrong on knife crime


But her most direct comments came when talking about the financial crisis facing the NUS. She gave a stark ultimatum saying that the NUS may not reach its “hundredth birthday in 2022” unless there is “significant change”.


She added: “We need to look at our spending… because the fact of the matter is, there’s only a certain amount of money in the envelope.”


“I can understand when you’re the activist, when you’re a student on the ground, you think the NUS has got millions and millions of pounds and can do everything.”


But she declares that, that is not the case and how the latest financial crisis is “a great opportunity for us to literally go to the bones of our structure. Because if our finances aren’t right, we’re not going to exist.”


Martin hinted that the NUS could scale down its political campaigning activities to save money.


“We need to make sure that when we’re spending membership’s money, it’s impactful… So that might mean less campaigns, it might mean changing the structure of what NUS looks like.”


The NUS has been criticised for spending too much on political campaigning. In 2015, it spent £40,000 on an advertising campaign against the Liberal Democrats, after they supported the trebling of tuition fees. Recently, it has also publicly supported the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum on EU membership.


“I have a duty to fix this. I’m going to use this opportunity to make the difficult decisions. Because one thing the NUS has been doing in the past is pushing shit to the long grass. But actually, the grass gets cut eventually and the shit’s going to be there, and you’re going to have to pick it up.”


Martin was first elected as President in 2017, defeating incumbent Malia Bouattia. She was re-elected earlier this year but is ineligible to stand in next year’s election because of two-year term limits.