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Students answer SU’s cry for help over funding

More than a thousand people, many of them students, have signed a petition calling for UEA to provide the SU with more money. 

Uea(su) could go bust in a matter of months if the University does not step in. This would mean students’ money from society and club subs accounts would be forfeited to creditors, and many clubs and societies could shut down.

The petition was started after one SU officer said students could help Uea(su) by showing the University “how much they care about the Students’ Union”.

During an SU livestream Activities and Opportunities officer and Uea(su) Finance Committee Chair Alicia Perez told students: “I know a lot of people don’t understand what the SU does. But the SU is representation, it’s clubs and societies, it’s the bars, the LCR, Unio. It’s having an LGBT officer, a black officer, [a] mature students officer. It’s about making sure all your opinions are making their way up to the Vice Chancellor. There is so much that the SU does and the main thing students can do to help us is to show how much they care about the Students’ Union to the University. That can be sending the Vice Chancellor letters, making your own little campaign, starting a petition for the University to fund the SU.”

Uea(su) Welfare, Community and Diversity officer Amelia Trew added: “University isn’t just about coming and doing your course, it’s about the people you meet and how you meet them and the skills you learn along the way, and that’s not just from academia, that’s from what the SU brings. Really what we can do is just make sure that the University knows that [students] want this, [they] want to help, and [they] don’t want the SU to go bust.”

Earlier this year the SU asked UEA for £350,000 to survive and an additional £700,000 to be able to build on the services it already provides. However management minutes released by the SU revealed the SU are now facing a “cash crisis” that could leave them with no money “by late May or June”.

 In an attempt to stay afloat the SU has introduced a click and collect service from the Waterfront for its unused alcoholic stock, which is worth more than £1,000. This initiative is in addition to its click and collect for groceries from the SU shop.

Thomas Floodgate, the UEA student who founded the petition, said: “As head of a petition to rally against the University, it has become increasingly aware to me how many students did not realise the scale of the problem. Some of the stories of how the SU have helped have been truly inspirational and really prove how vital their services are to the student community. For me and many others, to lose the SU would be to lose the heart of UEAs community.”

Although UEA gave Uea(su) £1.4m for this academic year, the SU pays around £700,000 to rent Union House. At other universities around the UK student unions often do not pay rent to their university. 

A University spokesperson previously said: “We value the contribution Uea(su) makes on student experience at UEA both academically and socially. The University and the SU are in discussions about the significant financial challenges that both organisations are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is very difficult to make direct comparisons on the financial arrangements between universities and their student unions.  There are complex arrangements that vary from institution to institution regarding how funds flow between institutions.  For example, UEA provides cleaning and IT support services to the SU at no charge but this does not show in either party’s financial statements.”

UEA did not respond to a request for comment about the petition.

You can view the petition here.


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19/05/2020

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Chris Matthews