David J. Townsend, OUSU President, commented: “This is a massive achievement for OUSU. My predecessors have been trying for years without success, and it’s great to be able to actually make it happen at last.”
The increase follows extended lobbying by OUSU and common room Presidents, who joined together to write letters to the Vice-Chancellor highlighting the issues that underfunding had created for OUSU.
Most of the campaign centred on the comparison of OUSU’s budget with that of other Russell Group student unions, for whom the average block grant is approximately £80 per head. This is in contrast to OUSU, whose total grant is a mere £17.50 per head. This comes from the overall student union budget of £50 per head, the rest of which goes to common rooms.
JCR and MCR Presidents also joined the lobbying, with Tristen Naylor, former MCR President of Univ, writing to the Vice-Chancellor on behalf of all MCR Presidents. JCR Presidents from colleges including Balliol, St John’s, Merton, Queen’s, Magdalen, Hertford, and Worcester wrote letters to the Vice-Chancellor, while many also passed motions in support of OUSU’s request. A campaign was also undertaken to flyer academics and University staff about the issue, even presenting the Vice-Chancellor with a giant Valentine’s Day card at Congregation.
Townsend praised the co-operation that had led to the success of the lobbying: “It’s a testament to the strength of OUSU, working closely with common rooms, that we can achieve things like this.”
However he highlighted that funding would continue to be an issue: “There’s more to do before OUSU has the level of funding it really needs for the future, but this is a significant step in the right direction. Now it’s up to students, through their representatives on the Trustee Board and the Council of the Student Union, to decide how to spend it and get the most out of their Student Union.”
He emphasised how the help that OUSU had given to common rooms had played a role in their decision to support the campaign: “Earlier in the year, the OUSU President and Common Room Support Officer negotiated a deal for common rooms to be able to have Sky TV subscription at the charity rate (provided that they weren’t making money from the service), saving common rooms across the University up to £300,000 each year. Several common rooms cited this in their reasons for supporting OUSU.”
However, OUSU’s funding was not on all students’ radars. A Magdalen fresher expressed confusion and indifference, asking: “Will that change much that they do? what even do they do?”
Jan Soroczynski, a first-year biochemist, commented: “First of all I don’t like the OUSU logo”, before going on to say, “I don’t feel it has a very good presence or a link with the university (at least that’s the way I feel about it, I’m pretty sure many others haven’t had anything to do with it). So it’s weird that they’re getting a funding increase considering I don’t see what they have done.”
He also pointed out: “And the new president promised recording of lectures, I haven’t seen any of that…”