Spaghetti models and sheep drawings: How the NUS spend your money on sabb training

It’s not a mind map, it’s a ‘flower of consultation’

The worth of an NUS membership has been brought into question over the last few weeks. Some universities have even left altogether and many others have set about on the road to disaffiliation.

If universities vote to leave, the union will be without their affiliation fee. Every SU pays a fee to the NUS for “invaluable” training among other things.

Four NUS Delegates representing Oxford University – who are currently voting in their referendum on whether to keep paying their £28,000 affiliation fee – have revealed the practices undertaken at NUS run training for sabbatical officers.

The foursome, known as Oh Well, Alright Then, investigated the ‘invaluable’ training and posted photographs of some of the activities which included:

  • Building the tallest structure out of spaghetti, marshmallows and string
  • Drawing ‘Pirate Sheep’ and ‘Flowers of Consultation’
  • and sitting on the floor in circles discussing world leaders.

spagetti s1

This seems to be more nursery than team building for adults who are meant to lead and represent thousands of students. To be fair, they are some pretty good spaghetti structures.

It is reassuring to know that if there is ever a manifesto point that can be solved by an assemble of spaghetti, marshmallows and string our NUS leaders can now tackle it.

spagetti s2

Hopefully the Government’s planned rise in tuition fees can be brought down by a complex construction of the four food groups.


As well as having strong skills when it comes to pasta architecture, the NUS officers appear to be adept at drawing too.

Discussing ‘leadership’ using a drawing of a cartoon sheep full of buzz words is quite confusing. Surely a leader shouldn’t be a sheep, an animal known for senselessly following the crowd and not actively taking decisions. The sheep also has an eye patch, is this some sort of metaphor about the lack of vision undertaken by the NUS recently?

Another metaphor can be seen with placing the buzz words in the body of the sheep, are they remarking on the ‘woolly’ nature and use of these words when it comes to training exercises. Also the sheep is labelled with ‘Sensible Footwear’ but doesn’t appear to be wearing anything. Does the NUS want us to not wear shoes or adopt hoofs like sheep? Very confusing. 


Least the ‘Flower of Consultation’ uncovers some revolutionary techniques in engaging with students. You would hope elected students would be able to communicate with their contemporaries without having to draw a cartoon plant! What about a “Tree of Training” or a “Hedge of Welfare” or even – dare I say – a “Shrub of Change”?

sitLeast sitting on the floor discussing world leaders seems like a more sensible exercise after putting down the spaghetti and sketching pencils.

Whilst being reminiscent of primary school days, I am sure our NUS officers learnt a lot at these training sessions. Whether it was about leadership and teamwork, we can’t be so sure.