The Union of UEA Students (UUEAS) has released a report condemning the cost of participating in sports societies at UEA. The report highlights, that the cost of Sports Association Membership (Sam), which is set by the union itself, is largely responsible for the high cost. However, UUEAS has blamed the financial barrier on poor funding from the university.
UEA prides itself on offering a plethora of sports, ranging from archery and lacrosse to kayaking and kitesurfing. However, the report has found that, compared to a list of ten competitor universities, (Aston, Bath, Bucks, Cardiff, Essex, Kent, Sheffield, Southampton, Sussex and York) UEA is the most expensive institution at which to join a sports club.
The report concludes that a large portion of the participation costs comes from the £45 students have to pay to purchase Sam. Comparatively, the cost of the equivalent insurance is, respectively, £20 and £15 a year at York and Cardiff universities. The University of Bath, where £30 covers membership fees, insurance and equipment, also implements a well-thought out tiered payment process.
The document also states that, at some other universities, if a student takes part in a British Universities and Colleges Sport (Bucs) competition they pay a further £50 to cover entry, travel, insurance and officials. This means that the more “casual” sports participants, for whom it is more of a hobby, are not paying the same of fees as the most dedicated participants. At UEA, no such two-tier system exists.
The report reveals some damning facts about the cost of sports participation at UEA. The total cost of joining the football club has been found to be £90, and must be paid at the start of the academic year at the same time that other recreational costs.
While the cost of Sam is determined by UUEAS, the union has refused to accept responsibility for the expensive costs of participating in sport at UEA. The union’s Activities and Opportunities Officer, Yinbo Yu, argued: “This study highlights the devastating impact that poor student union funding from the university has on sport. The danger is that we are pricing the best athletes out of taking part in sport, which will hit their educational experience and UEA’s sporting success hard. We’re calling on UEA to enter into serious conversations with us about funding so we can get the prices down and participation up”.
UUEAS are presently campaigning for the university to increase their block grant, which is the lowest in the country, and have argued that UEA students are missing out as a result.
Funding for sports clubs is an on-going argument between the university and UUEAS. Only 12 months ago the Director of the Sportspark, Phil Steele, gave a presentation to the Sports Partnership Group (SPG), which comprises of representatives from UEA, the Sportspark and UUEAS, suggesting that sports clubs no longer be the responsibility of union. Instead he argued that these clubs should be run by either UEA Sport or an ‘Athletics Union’.
At the time, Steele argued that these plans would mean that money and funding for clubs could be more efficiently spent and distributed.