National Union of Students

Scope and Content

Executive Committee minutes, 1966-75.

Papers relating to student travel, 1953-73, including material relating to British Universities Student Travel Association (BUSTA), 1963-73, and International Student Travel Conference (ISTC), 1960-73.

Papers relating to international activities, 1946-76, including: World Festivals of Youth and Students, 1959-73; Chile, 1962-74; Czechoslovakia, 1968-72; Portugal, Mozambique and Angola, 1972-74; Rhodesia, 1958-74; South Africa, 1963-76; USA, 1961-72; CIA links to student organisations; 'News Services' (International Union of Students magazine), 1946-68; 'The Student' (International Student Conference magazine), 1960-68; 'Africa Digest', 1969-74.

Papers relating to Endsleigh Insurance Ltd, 1965-76, including Annual Reports, 1967-72, board meeting minutes, 1971-73, and correspondence, 1965-73.

Papers relating to development, 1967-87, including field officers' reports, 1972-79, and officers' manuals, 1981-85.

Papers relating to finance, 1953-82, including NUS accounts, 1953-74, 1980.

Papers relating to: student grants, 1949-76; NUS and constituent union constitutions, 1944-87; NUS services, 1944-76; NUS councils and conferences, 1954-87; Autonomy Campaign, 1970-72; Radical Student Alliance (RSA), 1966-68; Hornsey and Guildford Colleges of Art, 1968-71; 'King and Country' debate, 1933-36; government higher education policy, 1962-77; women's campaigns, 1964-76; county and county borough education committees, 1944-69.

Press cuttings, 1966-73, 1979-80; Annual Reports, 1985-89; 'Main Mail' (circulars on major topics), 1972-74, 1976; NUS Yearbooks, 1949-75 (incomplete series); miscellaneous handbooks, manuals and publications, 1939-91; audio tapes recorded at NUS conferences.

Administrative / Biographical History

Students' unions and guilds had existed in individual British universities since the 19th century, but there was no attempt to set up a national body until the early years of the 20th century. The British Universities Congress was established in 1906 and met annually until 1914 and a variety of other organisations were established in succeeding years. In February 1922 two of these organisations, the Inter-University Association and the International Students' Bureau, amalgamated at a meeting held at the University of London to form the National Union of Students, largely to provide a British body that could affiliate to the Confédération Internationale des Étudiants (CIE).

By 1924, all universities and university colleges in Britain were members of the NUS. In its early years, the NUS concentrated on organising student travel opportunities, vacation work and language courses. A Travel Department was set up and in 1924 the NUS took over responsibility for the CIE's International Travel Commission, organising student travel throughout the world. In 1934, the NUS produced a report on student health and soon came to be recognised as a body that would support students in all aspects of their lives and ensure that their views and interests were represented to the government and other relevant bodies. By the late 1930s the NUS had a reputation for radicalism and barely survived the outbreak of war in 1939. After the war, membership widened to include non-university colleges. Travel remained a major concern and the NUS derived much of its revenue from its travel company. However, problems in the travel industry in the 1970s led to a collapse and the union was forced to sell the company. The NUS now has about 750 member institutions. Each students' union is entirely autonomous and the NUS has no authority over individual unions; it is purely a co-ordinating body.

From the outset, the NUS was organised on a federal basis, with individual students' unions and guilds sending delegates to an Annual Council. Here they elected (and still elect) an Executive, which met at least three times a year. The Annual Council was later replaced with Winter and Spring Conferences until 1991, when the Winter Conference was abolished. A National Council was instituted at that time and is required to meet at least twice (three times since 2000) between Annual Conferences. It consists of the NEC and members elected by Regional Conferences, Campaign Conferences and special committees. Every constituent member may send one delegate to Annual Conference for every 1,000 full-time equivalent students the institution has (although all with more than 750 students can send at least two delegates); all but one of each delegation (usually the union president) must be elected by the students. Since 1952 the President has been elected for a two year term (previously only for one year). NUS Scotland, NUS/UCMC Wales and NUS-USI Northern Ireland (Northern Irish institutions were only admitted from the late 1940s) are semi-autonomous and their Presidents have seats on the 26-member NUS National Executive Committee (NEC), which is accountable to the Annual Conference and National Council. Originally, the Executive consisted of one representative of each member union, but now it is much smaller; eleven of the NEC members are full-time and paid and the remaining fifteen are part-time and unpaid.

The NUS has a Steering Committee, which organises and runs Annual Conference, a Finance Committee, a Rules Revision Committee and an Elections Committee, which scrutinises union elections to ensure fairness. These are made up of a mixture of elected members, members of the NEC and (on the Elections Committee) independent scrutineers.

In 1962, the NUS had Education and Welfare (previously Grants and Welfare), Events, Publications and Travel Departments. The Travel Department operated the NUS Hostel in London.


The archive had been moved several times and suffered from fire damage before its arrived at the Modern Records Centre and was very disordered and confused. It has been roughly arranged according to subject.

Access Information

Subject to conditions explained in full catalogue, this collection is available to researchers by appointment at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick. See

Acquisition Information

This archive was deposited in the Centre between 1988 and 1996 by both the National Union of Students and by David Gilles, a former member of the Executive Committee (1971-73).

Appraisal Information

This collection has been weeded for duplicates.


Further deposits are expected.

Related Material

The Modern Records Centre also holds papers of Stanley Jenkins, President of the National Union of Students, 1949-1951 [920].