A new Labour Student Organisation

The Labour Party has launched a consultation on the creation of a new student organisation within the Party. Submissions can be made here by Labour Clubs and members until midday 5th March 2021. As Young Labour Student Reps we form part of the working group that will consider these submissions and draw up proposals – the more submissions clubs make the better position we’ll be in to argue for them!

Below you can find our template submission for a democratic student organisation within the Party, equipped to support student organising, written based on past discussion with clubs & student organisers, and designed to help you craft your clubs’ submission to the consultation.

What should be the key aims and objectives of the new student organisation?

Student members have waited years for a democratic student organisation in the Labour Party. It is vital we take this opportunity to build a democratic, campaigning and inclusive student wing adequate to the unique position of labour student organising between the labour and student movements. The new student organisation must welcome students who share our values into the labour movement, guaranteeing democracy by ensuring this organisation is a section of the Party and any student representatives are elected by one member one vote of student members of the Labour Party, as included in the 2018 Democracy Review proposals.

The new student organisation should aim to nationally coordinate grassroots student members and labour clubs and facilitate their local organising. As such it should entail a Student Coordinating Committee including the existing Young Labour Student Reps alongside student representatives nominated by Labour Clubs and elected by student members in each Party region or nation, and representatives of further demographics as covered under question two.

The organisation should facilitate student members’ political education, campaign for the Labour Party, support them to organise within the student movement, within their Student Unions and organise at their institutions in solidarity with college and university workers and allied groups. The organisation should facilitate student members to strategically organise with and work within trade unions and social movement groups.

The organisation should work to organise students into their workplace and tenants unions, and any student organisation Student Coordinating Committee should therefore include trade union representation.

The new student organisation should engage students in the broader structures of the Party and encourage engagement with local campaigns and community organising. As such it should be structured to facilitate a close relationship between Labour clubs, CLPs and Young Labour structures at every level. It should include provision for student members to take part in the activities of their term time and non term time CLPs as appropriate.

In this regard the structure should seek to avoid duplication between Young Labour and student Labour organising and should therefore include points of integration with Young Labour structures.

How should the structure cater for the different demographics within the student membership?

Labour’s vision of a national education service is one of lifelong and cross-generational learning. This must be reflected in the new student organisation which should include representation for mature students and postgraduate students.

The structure should seek not just to represent, but to empower women members, disabled members, LGBTQ+ members, members of colour, and other members subject to racialised oppression, through collective organising. As such any Student Coordinating Committee should include at least the liberation officer positions as the previous Labour Student affiliate, including:

  • BAME Officer
  • Women’s Officer
  • Disability Officer
  • LGBTQ+ Officer
  • Trans Officer

The historic push for trans representation on the previous Labour Student committee combined with the current climate towards trans people in public life and in the party, make it important that a trans officer is included in the structure.

The structure should facilitate and ensure spaces for collective self-organisation of liberation caucuses and properly support and resource this work as a priority.

What level of autonomy should a new student structure have, and how should it interact with existing structures?

Labour’s youth and student structures are exceptional in their lack of autonomy in activity and resourcing as compared with the respective structures of many of Labour’s European sister parties. The Party should work towards a model where youth and student structures hold a portion of their members subs similarly to the manner in which CLPs do, and the manner in which Young Labour branches can now come to an arrangement with their CLPs to receive a proportion of young members subs. The structures should then be able to spend resources and hire staff of their own, accountable to youth and student representatives.

The new student structure must have political autonomy in order to be able to effectively organise and build the Labour Party at higher and further education institutions.

A new student organisation connected to Labour Clubs necessarily entails that Labour Clubs register with the Party, and this could mirror the way in which Young Labour Branches register with the Party and are approved by the Young Labour National Committee. For the purposes of the rulebook the Labour Club would constitute a Party Unit comprising student members of the Party at the relevant institution.

However, this need not and must not entail any loss of the Labour Club’s political autonomy over its activities.

In all, any new organisation must consider that:

  • Labour Clubs value their ability to speak out on political and Party matters and will not participate in any organisation which curtails this.
  • It is critically important to ensure student organising is engaged with the wider community as far as possible and the vast majority of student members are young members. 
  • It is equally important to ensure all student members who are not young members are able to take part in the new student organisation.
  • Many clubs, especially at campus universities, operate well without being integrated into Young Labour. 
  • Some other clubs wish to have a closer integration with their respective Young Labour groups. 

It must further account for the fact that Labour Clubs exist and organise independently of Party structures and are subject to the regulations of Student Unions to which they are affiliated, which in some cases prohibit their membership having mandatory membership of a third-party organisation (in this case the Labour Party). 

Broader points of integration with Young Labour structures should include:

  • The three national Student Reps to continue to sit on the Young Labour National Committee.
  • Regional student reps to have ex-officio membership of regional Young Labour Group Committees.
  • Labour Clubs to have at least ex-officio representation on relevant CLP Executive Committees.
  • Labour Clubs to have at least ex-officio representation on relevant Young Labour Branch Executive Committees.

While the creation of regional student member committees may not make sense due to the sparsity of Labour Clubs in some regions and the risks of duplication with regional Young Labour Committees, regional student reps should be free to use informal organisational structures, working groups and the like, working with Labour Clubs in the region – as may be required for instance in a region with a large number of student members.

The new organisation must take Scottish and Welsh Labour Students and their national committees into full consideration. As such it should include provision for the continued existence of student representative committees in the nations subject to consultation with Scottish and Welsh Labour Students. The new organisation must preserve the political autonomy of Scottish and Welsh Labour Students alongside that of all other youth and student structures.

What relationship should it have to education institutions and the student union movement?

The new student organisation should facilitate the establishment of Labour Clubs at all possible educational institutions and necessary membership data at institutions without Clubs should be made accessible to relevant student representatives for the purposes of establishing Clubs.

The relationship of the new student organisation to the student movement is a political question which is properly a matter for the decision of elected student representatives and beyond the scope of this consultation.

What practical support is needed to help student branches recruit, organise and campaign?

The relevant student representatives should have access to contact their relevant student member constituencies via Organise at least quarterly. 

Dedicated Party staff time should be ring-fenced for youth and student organising. This should entail multiple members of staff dedicated to youth and student organising in line with the Youth and Student Unit proposed in the Democracy Review.

Labour Clubs should have a point of contact and support in regional offices which should provide resources and logistical support for the organising of regional Student Representatives.

Resources should be made available for website costs; the design, print and delivery of relevant literature as produced by the Student Coordinating Committee of a new student organisation.

Resources to cover room hire, travel, accessibility arrangements, and accommodation costs for national and regional student member events, schools, campaigns and other activities should be made available.

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