In a week where UEA was named number one for ‘student experience’ in a major new survey, a damning blog published by UEA’s Student Union has revealed that the Union will be forced to take drastic steps to save money in the forthcoming academic year. They lay the blame for these cuts on the university, which they claim is putting the future student experience at UEA at risk.
The Union claims that the funding model provided by the university to support it is no longer working, leaving them facing a deficit of £34,000.
The Student Union is responsible for much of what was praised in the Student Experience Survey, including 'good social life' and 'good extracurricular activities/societies', factors which were weighted equally alongside 'helpful/interested staff' and “well-structured courses”. In spite of this, the SU insists that the university is not providing them with enough funds to maintain the quality of the services that they currently provide.
According to the blog, entitled 'Our Student Experience is #1. But For How Long?', the Union is going to have to 'cut the things which we do to make your student experience so good'. As well as facing increased costs in bars and cafes, the Union believes it will no longer be able to provide much-needed housing, benefits and welfare advice.
Union funding comes in the form of a block grant from the university, and is much lower than that of the other Student Unions in the Guardian top 25. In 2011, the UEA Student Union received the equivalent of £26.95 per head. The average grant per head received by Student Unions in the top 20 was £61.94.
The average increase in funding provided to student unions from their respective universities was 11.5 per cent, with UEA’s increasing by just 1.08 per cent in 2011.
Matthew Myles, communications officer for the Union of UEA Students said; “We love UEA and we can see why we have come out tops. The Union exists to provide advice and represent student views on academic and welfare issues and we run most of the non-academic activity including sporting clubs, volunteering and social events on the UEA campus. We are proud of what our Union does for students and we want to continue to offer this wide range of services and activities to our members”.
He did express some hope that the current situation faced by the Union might change, saying “we are still in discussions with UEA over the future funding model for the Union, and we hope that we will still be able to more than meet the needs of UEA students and even work towards becoming the best students’ union in the country.”
The finance officer of the Union, Joe Levell, appeared to be less optimistic about the harsh realities of the current funding model: “We understand that times are hard for universities and the future may hold further austerity measures and privatisation within higher education. However, the Union’s funding model no longer works, and in the future we will not be able to contribute to the UEA student experience as we do now.”
A UEA spokesperson said: “The university is committed to supporting the work of the Students’ Union and is making £500,000 of capital investment in the refurbishment of union-run premises on campus this summer. We understand the concern of the Union and discussions are still on-going as to how the university can best fund and support the activities and services they offer”.
With regards to the comparison to other universities in the top 10, the spokesperson said: “It is difficult to compare the finances of student unions at different universities as various financial models are used. And different unions offer different services. We will be working with the SU to look at a more sustainable model of funding for the future. Whatever the outcome of current discussions, the university will work with the Students’ Union to ensure that we continue to deliver, jointly, the best student experience, as demonstrated by our recent success in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey.”
Discussions between the university and the Union are ongoing to ensure that it can continue contributing to the student experience at UEA. Joe underlined this, saying: “We hope to continue discussions with the university in the future and aim to work together to ensure we can deliver the requirements of a leading Students Union.”
Source : http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/ueas-union-under-threat-from-significant-funding-shortfall-8602804.html759