National Union of Students (Australia)

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The National Union of Students (NUS) is the peak representative body for Australian university students. Most student unions in Australian campuses are affiliated to NUS. A university is eligible by its classification as a legitimate training provider and the payment of Union fees by the university according to the number of full-time study units of its students.


NUS in its current form came into being in 1987 after the collapse of its predecessor, the Australian Union of Students, in 1984. The AUS itself was known from 1937 to 1971 as the National Union of Australian University Students (NUAUS).[1]

NUS was formed at the same time that the Hawke government introduced the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (a system of deferred tuition payments), abolishing the free education system previously introduced by the Whitlam government.

NUS has had mixed success in its role as a lobby group and representative body. In particular, its limited finances have often meant that it has had difficulty making its presence felt on higher education issues. It was successful in the early 1990s in preventing the implementation of a deferred loan scheme in place of government student financial assistance, and in reducing the qualification age for student financial assistance.

NUS was unable to prevent the introduction of differential rates of HECS in 1996, but did lobby successfully to stop the introduction of a voucher system by then Federal Education Minister Dr. David Kemp despite later claiming victory in a similar campaign.

The union suffered another major setback in 2003 when despite intense lobbying of independent senators, the reform package of Dr. Brendan Nelson passed the Senate. This package permitted the introduction of Domestic Undergraduate Up-Front Fees (DUFF) by universities in addition to HECS places, and allowed universities to increase their HECS rates by 25%. Components of the legislation introducing VSU, and the mandatory offering of the Australian Workplace Agreement as a component of universities’ enterprise bargaining practices were dropped.

In 2003, NUS membership fees became indexed to consumer price index (CPI) removing some of the strain on the union’s finances. NUS charged $5 per student represented by each member organisation. This raised small fears that many small and regional campus organisations might disaffiliate due to increases in affiliation fees.

In 2006 with the introduction of NUS took a massive budget hit with the introduction of VSU.

National Structure

NUS' National structure is formalised into office bearers, committees, and departments.


External links