Student Unions: who are they and how are they run?
What is a student union?
Whichever university you choose to study at, you’ll find a student union. These are organisations set up to look after you and the interests of the student body. Their purpose is to make sure you, and all of the other students on campus, have a voice. So, when the governing body of the university sits in one of their big meeting rooms to decide on their future – there’ll be someone there from the student union representing you. The students’ union is also responsible for running a great range of services for their members, including bars, restaurants, shops, support services and counselling, amongst others.
Who runs the student union?
The student union is made up of... you guessed it, students! There is a board, or a council, if you like who run the show, lead by the student union president. These people aren’t just on the board because they want to be, however. They have to be elected onto the students union – by you. So, each year, there will be student council elections and you’ll get to vote on who you want to represent you. Nowadays you’ll usually find these on YouTube to entice you to vote; and also these are increasingly becoming full-time roles for graduates.
Is the student union independent?
Yes. The student union is run by the elected members. They will have monthly committee meetings where decisions are made, money is raised to support student initiatives, and they’ll also have to balance their books at the end of the year. Student unions operate as a separate entity to their university, but the university will provide them with some financial support and they’ll work closely together to meet your student needs.
How can I become a member?
By going to university! Most student unions are set up so that by enrolling at university you are automatically a member; so if you look at your university fees closely enough, you’re likely to see a small sum of money that is your membership fee. Yes, university is expensive and every penny counts, but don’t grumble about your membership fee because the student union provides a great range of services that you can use as a student. Plus remember, they’re also your voice on campus!
In addition, there’s always the opportunity to get involved in the running of the SU yourself. Either popping into the SU office on campus, or taking a look through their YouTube channel, you’ll find all the information you need.
You may also have heard of the NUS (National Union of Students). These guys are the ones taking your concerns straight to the top – yep, right into the halls of Westminster. Your student union president will be a member of the NUS as well.
We’ve created profiles of every student union, and interviews with many, to give you a real insight to a crucial part of university life.