Why Students’ Unions Matter

Students’ unions are important for many reasons

I’ve got a piece in the Times Higher Education about some of the reasons I think students’ unions are important:

Students’ unions have a long and distinctive history in UK higher education, but their character has changed significantly in the past decade.

While they have always been concerned with student representation and support, and with the extracurricular aspects of student life, they are now much more directly interested in – and increasingly involved in – the core issue of teaching and learning.

Following the lead of the National Union of Students, which has displayed a new willingness to work with the government, students unions’ have shifted from a position of general opposition to change (particularly on student finance) and campaigning on international policy matters (often combined with leftist posturing), to arguing for better libraries, improved IT, more class contact and improved feedback on assessed work.

When I was a student many years ago, student unionism was primarily concerned with fighting apartheid, denouncing Margaret Thatcher and supporting the miners. Debate was passionate and it all felt massively important, but unions rarely concerned themselves with day-to-day university life. How times have changed.

And the change is for the better. The full piece is available via Times Higher Education. (Thank you THE for asking me to do the piece.)


2 thoughts on “Why Students’ Unions Matter

  1. Did you also see the short piece in this week’s THE about the record number of votes received in Sheffield’s recent SU elections? Chimes with what David Watson says about students becoming more active but not necessarily in traditional party politics.

  2. We have a free lecture on the 27th March (Part of the Knowldge Without Borders series) on how Students’ Unions can and are responding to the demands of internationalisation and a constantly diversifying student demographic. Dominic Scott, Chief Executive of UKCISA will present on the rationale behind the framework and audit toolkit for examining Internationalisation in SUs, and Alex Cork-Adelman will focus on the lessons Nottingham has learnt and its plans for future development. Open to staff, students and external delegates.
    Registration is here http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/internationaloffice/knowledge-without-borders-series.aspx

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