A Single Students’ Union: Moving Forward
Ensuring plans for a single students’ Union meet the expectations and needs of our students
Following almost 6 months of consultation with our members, the YUSU and the GSA trustee boards met separately this month to consider proposals to form a single students’ union for all students at the University of York.
The consultation included a survey of over 1500 students (72% undergraduate, 16% taught postgraduate and 12% research postgraduate). We also held detailed focus groups with over 150 students (70% postgraduate, 40% international, specific mature student focus groups and specific sessions with the ‘student expert panel’) and we held other consultation forums with staff and officers at our annual general members’ meetings, and more. We think this might be one of the most comprehensive reviews of students’ aspirations for representation, events, activities and support at the University of York ever.
The consultation identified a range of things that students reported being very keen to preserve, protect and maintain in a new students’ union. The boards were very confident that we could retain and even grow these activities as part of a single students’ union. These include a commitment to continue to run trips and postgraduate or international-specific events, commitments to maintain representatives with international and postgraduate experience, and commitments to keep a range of specialist casework skills and knowledge in our advice and wider staff team.
The consultation gathered a range of ideas about how we might establish new, exciting and innovative activities, events or representation. The two unions were very confident that we could factor many of these functions into a single students’ union. These included ideas to do more to represent and influence postgraduate experience beyond the campus, and possible areas of work to ensure better access and opportunity for disabled and mature students, as well as for research postgraduates. A single communication plan offering easier access to the single students’ union’s wide range of events, activities, representatives and services was seen as a really valuable way to make it easier for students to pick and choose which aspects of their union they wanted to be involved in.
The boards considered the student feedback along with details of some of the legal advice and guidance about the process to be undertaken to create a single students’ union. The process is subject to Charity Commission approval and requires some detailed consideration of fairness, transparency, and regulatory requirements that are expected to take a year to complete. The boards noted this would include a period for an all-student vote on newly elected officer roles and a new set of governing documents for a single students union which we anticipate will be put to members to consider in March/April 2024.
The respective trustee boards voted unanimously to support the move towards a single students’ union at the University of York. We are excited that we have the outline of a compelling vision for a single students’ union catering to the full diversity of needs of all of York’s students. A single, well-resourced students’ union will be able to support both a York-wide student experience and support the diversity of interests and needs that come from within an increasingly diverse student population.
Ben Vulliamy, Jonny Exon, Pierrick Roger and Viviane Cao
June 30th 2023