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National Union of Students funding suspended as government cuts ties over claims of antisemitism

Claims of antisemitism at the heart of the National Union of Students has led to the government suspending all engagement with the body.

The NUS will be removed from all the Department for Education (DfE) departmental groups and replaced with alternative student representation.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan has also urged bodies such as the Office for Students to take similar action.

The NUS will now receive no government funding.

Last month, the union announced it was opening itself up to an independent investigation following a wave of complaints by Jewish students.

It followed DfE concerns about the NUS’s “unacceptable response” to complaints about an invitation to the rapper Lowkey to its 2022 conference.

It noted the rapper had a history of making comments that have “widely been seen as antisemitic”.

NUS president Larissa Kennedy was alleged to have suggested Jewish students segregate themselves into a quiet area designed for neuro-divergent students so they would not have to hear him which, the DfE said, was “utterly unacceptable”.

‘Antisemitism must be stamped out of the sector’

The DfE said any NUS investigation must lead to “substantive action” and the decision to disengage from the NUS would be kept under review until the organisation “demonstrates it has suitably addressed these issues”.

Ms Donelan said: “I am horrified by the thought of Jewish students feeling ostracised by an organisation which should be a voice for their community and an advocate of equality for all students.

“Although this was a decision that the department did not take lightly, we have been clear that antisemitism must be stamped out of the sector and are treating these allegations with the utmost seriousness.”

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he was “seriously concerned” at the number of reports of alleged antisemitism linked to the NUS.

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Nadhim Zahawi says his department is disengaging with the NUS until the issues have been addressed

“Jewish students need to have confidence that this is a body that represents them, and we need to be sure that the student bodies that we engage with are speaking fairly for all students, which is why we are disengaging with the NUS until the issues have been addressed,” he said.

‘No place in our society’

“From the NUS’s initial response to our concerns, I am confident they are keen to take action and welcome further updates from them. Antisemitism has no place in our society and we will stamp it out, wherever it occurs.”

In its press notice, the DfE said it was also “deeply concerned” about the social media postings by the NUS president-elect, Shaima Dallali, including a tweet in support of Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organisation.

The DfE noted it was not the first time the NUS had been caught up in controversies over alleged antisemitism, including an inquiry in 2005.

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In response, the NUS said it was “disappointed” the government had announced the move through a press release rather than seeking to engage with it directly.

Following the launch of its investigation, the NUS said it would be appointing a QC, in consultation with the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), next week to conduct the inquiry.

“We have sought to undertake the investigation in a serious and proper way, and are working in collaboration with UJS at every step of the way,” a spokesman said.

He added they looked forward to working “constructively” with the government on the matter.

In 2017 a number of student unions disaffiliated from the NUS following the election of Malia Bouattia – who had described Birmingham University as “something of an outpost of Zionism” – as its president.

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