Storm the Bastille! The NUS want to abolish prisons

The walls of Belmarsh crumble


Lay down your handcuffs police officers. Judges, take off your silks. The NUS have spoken, and prisons are no more.

On its website, the National Union of Students says it’s an organisation which makes “a real difference to the lives of students”, that it “represents the interests of more than seven million students” and that it “champions students to shape the future of education”.

This week, the NUS black students’ conference called for the UK prison system to be abolished, labelling it “racist and sexist” – the latest in a long line of baffling decrees from corners of the NUS, that obviously affect every student they represent.

Malia is the current black students' officer. She will take on her role as President in the summer

Malia is the current black students’ officer. She will take on her role as President in the summer

This motion is both ridiculous and unrealistic. But the organisation now has such an inflated sense of self-importance that it feels it is a viable proposal. You would never see NHS unions call for prisons to be abolished, so why should it be the role of the NUS?

If the NUS, as it claims, truly represents students, it would distance itself from these idealistic, unrealistic motions. Whatever your views on the UK prison system, it has nothing to do with the vast majority of students, so it is laughable that the NUS feels the need to call for it to be abolished.

Students today have much more important issues. We are facing yet another rise in tuition fees. The plan is for only the “best” universities to do so, but we were also promised that only the best universities would charge £9,000 per year – and look how that turned out. Add to this the scrapping of maintenance grants, which will cut support for the poorest students, and we have two real issues which will affect students for the rest of our lives.

The NUS has overstepped it’s boundaries. The prison debate overshadows real student issues which are affecting us today. If anything, their recent activity – including refusing to condemn ISIS and calling for LGBT societies to abolish gay men’s representatives has only served to discredit the union as an organisation which proposes realistic change and forward-thinking change.

“We know students. We are students. We are 7 million student voices.”

The NUS is keen on repeating the word “student” to tell everyone how great they are at fighting for student rights and education.

So when they propose a motion that calls for prisons to be abolished, I think it is about time we really began to question their relevance as a representative student organisation.