OUSU facing funding crisis

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A series of emergency motions scheduled for this week’s OUSU Council meeting will see students discuss a funding crisis facing the student union, as well as potential changes to election times.

The Student Union’s Council, which met on Wednesday discussed “OUSU’s destructively low block grant funding”, a lump-sum provided by the University and separate colleges to enable it to carry out its varying responsibilities.

The funding provided is apparently significantly lower than other top universities across the country.

A motion proposed by OUSU President, David J. Townsend, notes: “OUSU currently receives an annual block grant from the University and Colleges of under £400,000, compared to an average block grant of £1.8M in other Russell Group universities”.

Townsend commented: “This significantly constrains OUSU’s ability to serve its 22 000-strong membership, as OUSU cannot afford to employ the staff to provide the professional services needed…”

He also explained that, as a result: “When it comes to delivery of election pledges, anything that involves more than minimal expenditure (whether on research or implementation) is unlikely to happen, or at best will be likely to experience considerable delays.

“It’s true that Oxford is in an unusual position as a result of its collegiate structure, but that’s no excuse for short changing the only body that can effectively represent you on any matter that occurs outside your College walls.”

As the Oxford Student went to print, the motion was yet to be passed. If it did, it would mandate the OUSU President to write to the Vice-Chancellor of the University, to “express its complete dissatisfaction with the current level of block grant, relative both to OUSU’s own institutional needs and other Russell Group student unions”.

A spokesperson for the University commented: “Given constraints on resources, the size of the grant allocated to the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) has to be considered in line with funding levels elsewhere in the University.

“The University continues to look for ways to address these long-standing issues with OUSU. We welcome the strides OUSU has made since becoming an independent charity and we look forward to continuing our close and productive working relationship with them in future.”

In a separate motion, potential changes to the timing of OUSU elections were also proposed. The plans would see OUSU elections split, with some of polls taking place in Hilary Term, along with holding some, as normal, in Michaelmas Term.

An Electoral Review Group (ERG), set up to review OUSU’s Annual Statutory Elections, wished to consult the Student Council before proposing the change.

David Bagg, chair of the group, said: “We’re really keen to make OUSU’s Elections even better, and we’re being open-minded about big changes to the electoral process so that OUSU can deliver even more for students and more people can engage with the brilliant work OUSU already does.”

He continued: “The Electoral Review Group has been working since the start of term, thinking about how to make OUSU’s elections better, fairer and more engaging.

“We received over 20 submissions, many of which raised good points about the long ballot paper, the short time for 1st years to get involved in the elections and that it was difficult to have a proper look at all the candidates in our annual elections because so many people get elected at once.”

Bagg emphasised that the ERG was “keen to use the discussion to inform our final recommendations” and that anyone who couldn’t attend the Council could “email us their views on this specific area before Friday noon at electoralreview@ousu.org”.

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