|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
|International affiliation||International Union of Socialist Youth|
|European affiliation||Young European Socialists|
|National affiliation||Labour Party|
Labour Students was a student organisation within the Labour Party of the United Kingdom. It was a network of affiliated college and university clubs, known as Labour Clubs, who campaigned in their campuses and communities for Labour's values of equality and social justice.
Labour Students’ main activities included providing political education and training to its members, sending activists to by-elections and marginal constituencies across the country and organising politically within the National Union of Students and Student Unions.
Labour Students was disaffiliated from the Labour Party by the Party's National Executive Committee in September 2019, with the intent of replacing it with a new student organisation.
Although campaigning activity continued to be organised under the Labour Students branding during the 2019 general election, the organisation has subsequently ceased to exist.
The Labour Party's first organisation for students was the National Association of Labour Student Organisations (NALSO), which was founded in 1946 but had its recognition by the party withdrawn in 1967 after it was taken over by supporters of the Trotskyist Socialist Labour League. While the Scottish organisation continued, the Labour Party was left without a national student body.
In 1970, some Labour supporters created Students for a Labour Victory, a group intended to coordinate campaigning in the general election that year. That group then became the National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS), which held its founding conference in 1971. Despite changing its name in the early 1990s, the current body, Labour Students, is still sometimes referred to by the acronym NOLS.
In its early years, NOLS was divided between two factions — members of the entryist Militant group and a mainstream left group, associated with the Tribune group of Labour MPs, which formed in January 1974 called Clause Four, after the central political statement of the Labour Party constitution. Militant controlled NOLS from January 1974 to December 1975. Members of NOLS in the 1970s included future parliamentarians Charles Clarke, Bill Speirs, Peter Mandelson, Sally Morgan, Mike Gapes, Mike Jackson, Nigel Stanley, Margaret Curran and Johann Lamont.
During Tony Blair's premiership, Labour Students opposed the Government's planned introduction of university "top-up" fees. Labour Students were broadly supportive of Gordon Brown's government.
In 2016, the national conference adopted a one-member-one-vote (OMOV) system for internal elections, through an amendment of its constitution. However many member clubs perceived this as being implemented incompletely and slowly, with accusations of vote-rigging in 2019. In the early 2019 Labour Students leadership election there were 507 eligible voters, out of a claimed approximately 30,000 Labour Party student members. As a consequence, about half of member clubs, including Oxford University Labour Club and Cambridge University Labour Club, disaffiliated from Labour Students.
Further to the disaffiliations by Labour university Clubs, a motion was tabled by Jon Lansman at the Labour Party NEC meeting in September 2019 to dissolve the current organisation on the grounds that it did not pay its affiliation fees nor submitted its political rules to the party. At the NEC meeting this motion passed and Labour Students is no longer affiliated to the Labour Party. This action was challenged by the incumbent Labour Students leadership, but they were unsuccessful.
As of 2021, the organisation's Twitter account is inactive, and its website is no longer operational.
Labour Students was a 'socialist society', affiliated to the Labour Party. This means that, whilst its aims was broadly in line with the wider party, Labour Students was an independent organisation and was entitled to democratically determine its own policy and governance. Labour Students members was entitled to vote in the affiliates section of Labour leadership elections.
Generally, Labour Students held four main national events each year, attended by club members from institutions across the country.
Liberation Conference sees the election of Labour Students’ four Liberation Officers (see ‘Liberation Campaigns’). It also includes panels and sessions around issues of particular importance to Liberation groups, for example mental health services or tackling antisemitism on campuses.
The Labour Students National Committee convened regularly and work together to ensure the organisation runs smoothly and works effectively to represent members.
The executive committee was made up of three full-time sabbatical officers who were responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisation.
The Chair led the organisation and was responsible for dealings with external bodies (including the NUS). The Secretary was responsible for the organisation's finances, communications and organises national events. The Campaigns and Membership Officer co-ordinated the recruitment and campaigning work of the organisation.
The rest of the National Committee was made up two vice chair positions, a further education representative, an international officer, eleven regional coordinators, the chairs of Welsh Labour Students and Scottish Labour Students, and four liberation officers. A notable liberation officer is Lily Madigan who was the national women's officer and in charge of running the women's network and relevant liberation campaign.
A number of other individuals attended National Committee meetings but do not have voting rights. These include the Labour Students NUS Group Leader/s, the Labour Students Rep on the Labour Party's National Policy Forum and the Youth and Students Rep on the Labour Party's National Executive Committee.
Within Labour Students there were four autonomous liberation campaigns. These were the Women's, Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Trans, Disabled Students and Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) Students campaigns, all of which are entitled to elect an officer to the National Committee. Labour Students holds caucuses for each of the liberation groups at every national event, has an equal opportunities policy and ensures all events are fully accessible.
There were separate organisations for Labour Clubs in the devolved nations, known as Welsh Labour Students and Scottish Labour Students respectively. The Chairs of these two organisations also sit on the committee of Labour Students as full members.
Labour Students took on a major campaign each year, voted for in an all-member ballot. Recent campaigns have included:
Every year, Labour Students actively organised and campaigned within the National Union of Students (NUS). As a result of this, Labour Students was viewed as an influential faction within the NUS and its members were frequently elected to the NUS National Executive Council (NEC) and to full-time officer positions, although 2015 saw a majority of their candidates losing to those to the Left.
In the late 1970s, Labour Students (then NOLS) worked within the NUS as part of the Broad Left, a student coalition which also included the student wing of the Communist Party of Great Britain and independent left wing students. The Broad Left stood slates of candidates in NUS elections. (The Broad Left is not to be confused with the post-1997 grouping Student Broad Left.) In the early 1980s NOLS broke with the Broad Left and presented its own slate of candidates in NUS elections. In 1982, NOLS won the presidency of NUS on its own for the first time. A succession of NOLS candidates were elected to the NUS Presidency until 2000 with the strongest challenges generally coming from those to the left of the Labour Party. Several former NOLS NUS Presidents, including Charles Clarke and Jim Murphy, went on to serve as Cabinet ministers, serving as members of a Labour government. Throughout this period, NOLS members of the NUS National Executive Committee were a minority, but exercised effective control.
Labour Students' flagship policy in NUS was[when?] the rejection of campaigning for universal grants, in favour of targeting student support funds towards poorer students through means testing. National Conference 2006 narrowly supported this policy, but it was renewed with a much increased majority in 2007. However, the position was reversed again when National Conference 2016 voted to campaign for universal living grants, funded through progressive taxation, in both further and higher education, in a policy change that had been pushed forward by the left-wing group, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.
Recent graduates of Labour Students have often gone on to work in Labour Party Headquarters, as ministerial special advisers, Trade Union officials and as members of left-leaning think tanks. Many also go on to enjoy successful careers outside of the politics.