Areas have been a feature of the organisational structure of NUS for most of the 70s, 80s and 90s. They developed as the FE membership of NUS grew and it was felt that local organisations, part of NUS and supported by NUS, were needed to service FE unions.
NUS, through Regional Officers and the Development Unit, have encouraged and supported the formation of Areas. NUS also set aside funds for for the development of new Areas. These measures continue.
Areas broadly function to a local representative of NUS but carry out their functions with a high level of local independence.
The functions of Areas are broadly as follows (not in any priority order!):
- Promoting Development of Students' Unions - Providing and developing local services (discount schemes, magazines) of students - Campaigning on local issues and providing a local focus for national campaigns - Local information and briefings - Co-ordinations of the work of Students' Unions to their mutual benifit
Whilst this is the broad role of Areas, they will of course develop according to local needs as well as local resouces. Local geography plays a major part in their development and Areas tend to be more effective where there is a sence of communtiy.
For example, West Yorshire is based on the old West Riding of Yorkshire boundaries which is an ancient, established, identifiable and well understood boundary. Areas established across borders or sparsely populated areas have a tendancy to struggle. CLANUS is an obvious example of this.
North West Area NUS existed for many years and was a successful Area organisation based at Lancaster University. It had a high level of support and was able to employ a full-time "Convenor" and provided a good range of services to Students' Unions.
NWANUS collapsed in 1985/86 when the then Convenor borrowed some money form the Area organisation. The money was repaid but in the hoo-ha surrounding the affair some colleges pulled out and the North West Area effectively ceased to exist.
Gill Stewart (Regional Officer before Pete Fisher-Godwin) set out to get an Area going again and CLANUS was formed in 1986/87. The first Convenor, Jane Ashton (President of S. Martin's) was successful in creating a good deal of interest in CLANUS despite low levels of affiliation. NUS funded the next Convenor's salary for the full year in 1987/88. CLANUS was now based at W.R. Tuson (Preston) College. George Vickers of Lancashire Poly was elected the following year 1988/89 and again the post was funded (in part) by NUS.
1989/90 was effectively the last year of CLANUS as no-one was elected Convenor, affiliations were again not sufficient to fund activity and little interest was shown affiliates. Lancashire Poly "dis-affiliated" and the Annual General Meeting was inquorate.
In January 1991 after discussions with other colleges in Lancashire Steve Atack, President of Lancashire Poly SU felt that it would be more realistic for 2 areas to exist in Cumbria and Lancashire to to the large catchment area of NWANUS/CLANUS and so set up a number of meetings to dicuss the development of a Lancashire Area
In June 1991 it was decided that a Lancashire Area should be established with a small affiliation fee being set to cover phone calls and postage. Steve Atack agreed to draft a costitution for the next meeting to be held in the next academic year.
History fades here for now, but in 1993 CLANUS was re-established with Peter Alder from S. Martin's College being elected Convenor. The area office was now based at Lancaster University Students' Union. The area now had a number of good years. In March 1996 at the annual conference of NUS, CLANUs was recognised.
However just as things were going good, things got worse. Lancaster University were having financial problems which were also felt by the Students' Union and they disaffiliated in the few months of the academic year. Donald Murray was elected Convenor. The Convenor's job still wasn't a paid position. He had planned to find part-time work, however he was unable to find work locally and therefore resigned to find work elsewhere. The General Secretary also resigned to take up studies at Manchester University and the LGB Officer resigned to concentrate on her studies.
In late October Stephen Mullen (the Area FEUD Officer) and Kate Buckell (Non Portfolio Officer) called an open executive meeting to discuss the future of the area. Stephen was co-opted as Convenor and a plan of action was worked out to get the area back up and running.
In the same academic year a new area for Manchester and Merseyside was being set up. UCL being intersted in joining this new area and did at the end of the academic year.
Despite this, the Annual General Meeting of CLANUS decided to continue the area as CLANUS and not as a North West Regional Area with Stephen Mullen being elected as Convenor with the office being based at Lancaster & Morecambe College.
Almost each week CLANUS is encouraging new affiliates and hopes to win back the two universities into membership by just doing a good job and convincing them that areas are a good thing.