The National Union of Students has said it was “disappointed” to learn that the government will cut ties over allegations of antisemitism within the organisation.
On 13 May, the Department for Education announced that ministers would “temporarily disengage” with the NUS, which would also be “removed from all DfE groups and replaced with alternative student representation, such as from the Office for Student’s student panel or from individual student unions”.
The OfS and other arms-length government bodies are instructed to follow suit. The NUS will have no funding from the government – although the DfE did not state precisely how much the union receives. The NUS Charitable Services – a charity that supports the development of students’ unions across the country – received £389,842 from 12 government grants in 2020/21.
In response, a spokesperson for the NUS said it was “disappointed” that the DfE had “press released” the news it was cutting ties “rather than seeking to engage with us directly”.
The DfE said it was cutting ties over “well-documented” allegations that “span several years”, suggesting “systemic antisemitism within the organisation is not being properly addressed”.
The NUS has launched an independent investigation into antisemitism, headed by a barrister, whose name will be announced this week.
In March, some Jewish students raised concerns about comments made by a rapper due to appear at the NUS conference. Reportedly, those concerned were told by organisers to use safe spaces. The rapper pulled out of the event. Earlier this year, a 2012 tweet posted by NUS president-elect Shaima Dallai, in which she referenced the Battle of Khaybar, was published by the Jewish Chronicle. She apologised “unreservedly” for the “unacceptable” tweet she posted as a teenager. Dallai has said she wants to “listen to the concerns of all students on how we can make our movement inclusive and open to all”.
The temporary disengagement will end once the union has shown “substantive action”, the DfE said. The Office for Students has been told to suspend engagement.
“Although this was a decision that the department did not take lightly, we have been clear that antisemitism must be stamped out of the sector and are treating these allegations with the utmost seriousness,” said Michelle Donelan, minister for higher and further education.
Donelan has previously called on student unions to disaffiliate from the national organisation.
On 14 May, the day after the government announcement, Dallai posted on Twitter: “The conservative party has a well documented history of racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia. Much of which they refuse to investigate or hold anyone to account. To put it simply, they don’t care about racism.”
She tweeted: “The gov has decided to cut ties with NUS before the investigation is concluded. Which means they’re not really interested in due process, rather, it’s an opportunity to attack students”, adding: “So, stop the performative politics.”
Read more: NUS picks next national president