A 66 per cent increase in funding has been allocated to OUSU by the University, prompting celebration from sabbatical officers.
£200,000 will be awarded immediately for the financial year 2014 –15. It will also receive a further £15,000 for the financial year 2015-16, and a final £50,000 for the year after.
President Tom Rutland said that he is “delighted to have successfully negotiated a massive increase in OUSU’s funding”.
“When I ran for OUSU President, I spoke about how years of underfunding for OUSU prevented it from being the Student Union that Oxford students deserved.”
He added: “This much needed funding uplift will propel OUSU on its journey from being a surviving student union to a thriving one.”
However, some student voices have been heard to speculate as to the timing of the inflated budget. Tom Ough, a third-year English student at St. John’s, commented: “I’m putting this down to Trup-gate. It’s quite clear that the university doesn’t want a repeat of an election which was a national laughing-stock, and this is a way of ensuring that students have more respect for OUSU, which has been chronically underfunded even in comparison to other collegiate universities’ student unions.
“But the funding increase is a credit to the negotiation skills of Tom Rutland and co., because the Trup debacle could easily have led the University to reduce its support for OUSU rather than give it a much-needed shot in the arm,” he added.
Some of this money will be used to hire a new Student Advice Service manager, who will allow the union to support more students who feel they have been mistreated or discriminated against.
OUSU will also be funding increased student representation across departments. Rachel Pickering, Vice President for Access and Academic Affairs, claimed that “student representatives are often less visible [than their college-based counterparts], and can lack the support they need to fulfill their representational roles”.
“The increase in funding will allow us to hire a full time Academic Representation Officer, whose job will be to coordinate and support divisional and departmental reps, and train them within their roles,” she said.
Alasdair Lennon, St John’s JCR President, commented: “The OUSU funding increase should be welcome news for everyone. However, due to Oxford’s nature as a federal university people will ask why isn’t this funding going to common rooms? The simple answer is that OUSU does things that common rooms cannot. OUSU’s centralised service offers: a free impartial and confidential advice service, assistance with troublesome landlords, coordination and execution of major campaigns, the support that student societies need, and the opinions of the entire student body. I also know that OUSU offer fantastic support and training to MCR and JCR presidents without which we would struggle in our roles. OUSU have an image problem not a relevancy problem, the increased funding is necessary and required.”
One Lincolnite, who did not wish to be named, hailed the new funds as an exciting prospect: “This is great news for students, and hopefully means that OUSU can do more for Oxford students. It is important that the University has increased its pitifully small block grant to demonstrate its commitment to the interests of students. Now, we need to make sure that OUSU spends this money wisely to meaningfully support the student body.”
The increased grant will also be used to improve communications with the student body by hiring a new Digital Communications Officer in Trinity Term and integrating Single Sign-On into its website.
Over the past few years OUSU has secured students the ability to re-sit Prelims and access the Rad Cam on a Sunday, as well as running the Living Wage Campaign across colleges. This year it also ensured that students who suspend their studies have the right to access University facilities.
Rutland suggested that in the past OUSU “has not been properly able to communicate these wins, as well as the services it offers to students like the Student Advice Service”.
The rest of the grant will go towards developing a digital Alternative Prospectus and permanently funding the OUSU Community Wardens Scheme. It also plans to investigate whether they could provide increased support for student non-sport clubs and societies.
Pickering reiterated her hopes that the increased funding will enable students to be “more aware of what OUSU does and how they can get involved.”