University plan to seize the Hive

Oliver Milne

Additional research: Harry Tattersall Smith
Sub-editors: Alan Sharkey & Sean Anderson

Main door to the GUU Extension (Photo: Jani Helle)

Sources close to the Glasgow University Union Board of Management have revealed plans which would see the GUU Extension revert back to ownership of the University. The University intends to use the reclaimed Extension to expand the Sport & Recreation services currently offered in the Stevenson Building.

The Extension is home to a number of the GUU’s most popular facilities, including the bars Playing Fields, Deep Six and its main venue The Hive – one of the campus’ most popular venues and home to club night Thursday Night Hive.

The effects on the GUU’s business model is likely to be drastic with estimations based upon the GUU’s financial statements for the financial year 09/10 putting the contribution of the Extensions’s bar sales as three-quarters of the Union’s £1.3 million turnover for last year. The University will offer the Union remuneration to the effect of £250,000 per year but failed to address the loss of the Union’s main social space.

It is understood that the reasoning behind this decision lies in the University’s relationship with Glasgow Life, the branch of Glasgow City Council responsible for overseeing the Council’s sport and recreational facilities, with whom the University currently have contracts to allow University athletes to use the facilities at the Kelvin Hall Sports Arena. Glasgow Life, currently planning to refurbish the Kelvin Hall, hoped the University would contribute £3.5 million to the refurbishment, in exchange for a strengthened agreement between the two bodies which would guarantee University access to the facilities. The University would continue to pay Glasgow Life a yearly service charge of £170,000.

In response, the decision was made by University Management to end the GUU’s long running lease for the Extension and for the University to develop it’s own facilities at an estimated by the University to cost of £9.2 million. This will cost the University an extra £5.5 million for this year, in comparison to the arrangement being offered by Glasgow Life.

This is not the first occurrence in which the return of the Extension to the University has been discussed. A similar proposal was at the heart of the ill-fated 2008 Options Appraisal, a document looking at the 4 student body structure at the University. Its conclusions, including the return of the Extension, were rejected by the Unions and have generally considered to no longer play an effect on University policy.

Secretary of Court, David Newall, in a statement to the Guardian said:

As a result of the closure of sporting facilities at the Kelvin Hall next year, the University is considering extending our facilities in the Stevenson Building. A decision will be made when Court meets on the 12th of October… The Glasgow University Union has been briefed on this possible development and will be closely consulted should the University decide to build a sports extension … The University of Glasgow greatly values the contribution made by the GUU and will be working closely with the Union to ensure it continues to be part of a successful, important and vibrant part of campus life.

GUU President, Chris Sibbald, believes the University have to a greater or lesser extent made up their mind on the future of the extension:

This a detailed plan that will have taken months to create, there is no way this is the start of a discussion … I’ve said to the Principal and the Secretary of Court that we need to have transparent discussions on this.

He went on to discuss the effects the proposals will have on the Union:

The financial effects are ridiculous, we are profitable and this could lead to a £300,000 loss for the Union. It’s very serious.

In one respect this is the University turning its back on student social interaction on campus… it will rip the heart out of the Union. Glasgow is famous for its community of four student bodies but here it seems to be cutting off its own right arm.

Sibbald is taking an emergency unpaid Sabbatical to fight these proposals which he believes will have a negative effect for all students:

Cost of a student gym membership could reach as high as £100 which will see a decrease of student memberships as the gym seeks to become competitive on a corporate level and market itself to the general public.

GUU President Chris Sibbald (left) and QMU President Kirsty Hill (right) at a recent photoshoot for the SRC Guide (photo: Sean Anderson)

Kirsty Hill, President of the QMU, expressed her sadness and disappointment with the proposals:

I’m just shocked, and upset for the GUU as they do play such a massive role on campus. I think losing a night club space is going to a have a seriously detrimental effect on student experience on campus. While the University may think this has a perceived advantage, I think this is massive loss for the students at Glasgow University.

Leo Howes, President of GUSA, had no official statement on the specific proposals relating to the Extension but did outline GUSA’s concerns:

The University’s 25 year contract with the Kelvin Hall as the major provider of indoor sports hall space is coming to an end and an alternative to this contract is desperately needed. Without an alternative sport and recreation provision, the students would be decimated and a number of indoor clubs lost.

The SRC President Stuart Ritchie acknowledged the announcement:

Although the timescale for the development is short, the details of these plans are still at an early stage. GUSRC has begun working with both the University and the GUU and will continue to do so going forward to ensure that the process is fair and that any progress on the development is done in the best interest of students.

With the GUU digging itself in for a fight, how does Chris Sibbald rate his chances? “I believe we will win, but we need the support of students,student media, and alumni, but as of now the University has left us in the dark”

Correction: Glasgow Life were seeking to up the incurred cost to the University by £170,000 a year, not £2.5million as the article originally stated.


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The very heart of student life at Glasgow University lies in the four student bodies and the community that this set up has created over many years. If they are successful in taking back this part of the Union the University’s tunnel vision is going to sever the spirit of this community and leave Glasgow Uni on the whole as non-descript and commercial as every other Scottish institution. They need to realise why the alumni of this University return to the GUU decades after their own graduation and note the importance it’s clearly played on their experience in Glasgow.

Shame on the University management for prioritising commercial interests over this student experience. Let’s see it through this fight as winners and continue to conquer by degrees!


The commercialism of Glasgow Uni isn’t going to be stopped by saving one clubbing venue. There are plenty of those around the city. The Uni has restructured the college/faculty system, introduced MyCampus which is built on American values (with a cost assigned for every course), management are ignoring the Senate, the SRC are toothless and the GUU spent all last term fighting a bunch of people in the Hetherington as far as I can tell.

Save a set of bars, sure, but don’t pretend its defending the soul of the University.


I think the point is it’s not just a set of bars. The Union represents one of the key links between the University and its students. As a student-run and -led institution, the University is revealing a chilling disregard by attempting to seize the new building without proper transparency. Mr Sibbald is right, this cannot be a new proposal.

Nonetheless, you make a valid point. The University has made some interesting decisions of late.


My point is, the Unions just seem to fend for themselves, abandoning staff and courses (you know, the place you get an education from in the first place), to focus on supporting themselves.

Its selfish. Especially seeing as how the same people calling for people to rally round the Hive didn’t lift a finger to save anyone else’s much loved facility, e.g. the postgrad club.

This ‘I’m alright, stuff you’ attitude is just and extension of management’s ‘I’ll do what I want’ line.

Liam Turbett

The Free Hetherington secured a guarantee of no cuts of to student services as part of their agreement to leave… hmm

Also, the organisation is called ‘Glasgow Life’ (formerly Culture and Sport Glasgow), Glasgow Sport doesn’t exist?!?!


Glasgow Life ALMO: Thats a whole other pile of corruption you don’t want to look too closely into.

Glasgow Guardian Editors

Sorry about that, amended to Glasgow Life now where it previously said Glasgow Sport. Also the figure for that price bump was incorrect.

Alan & Oliver have had another good read over that now, so that should be the last of the egregious errors.

Sean Anderson.

Oliver Milne

To clarify, Glasgow Sport is an administrative sub-division of Glasgow Life. Sorry for any confusion this caused.


I think this is a bit of editorial sensationalism…

‘Sibbald is taking an emergency unpaid Sabbatical to fight these proposals which he believes will have a negative effect for all students’

Not sure that this is the reason that Chris Sibbald is taking an unpaid Sabbatical as understand that decision had been made previously – might that be another error? Any truth left?

Mhairi McAlpine

This is dreadful.

Didnt Glasgow University try to take another student union away not all that long ago. I think those students just stayed in the building and refused to leave – they also managed to get them to not cut some of the courses that they were planning to. Perhaps the Glasgow University Union students could do the same? Might get even more courses back as well!


Mhairi – what is so dreadful about additional sports facilities for students?
There is plenty under utilised space in GUU and the University is not trying to take away a student union but make best use of public funds – as an alumni and a tax payer, I quite support that.
This is far from the end of the GUU so should not be billed as such – John


There’s nothing dreadful about additional sports facilities for students, but where’s the necessity for them suddenly come from? The student body certainly doesn’t appear to have been crying out for them in recent times. My feeling is that there would be a majority in favour of retaining the Hive over the new sports facilities that the University had suddenly decided students need – you will no doubt see this manifest itself on campus in the coming weeks and months.

As an alumnus (alumni is the plural form – you’re welcome) and a tax payer, I support the idea that students are the key stakeholders in an educational establishment, and should have a genuine say in how the funds set aside for them are used. How a capital outlay of £9.2m and an additional £250k per year by way of compensation for the Union represents better value for money than a contribution of £3.5m to the Kelvin Hall refurbishment and a £170k service charge, I don’t know.

A quick, back-of-a-fag-packet calculation shows you that it would take almost 55 years of service charges before the proposed alternative would represent better value for money. Furthermore, I’d say, conservatively, that any facility built by the University would require major, costly refurbishment after 20 years at most. Why spend more money and take on all of the risks (the rewards will be limited) that go with ownership when a cheaper, perfectly suitable alternative, which works fine as it is, exists?


Laughing – thanks Chris. I am dyslexic so got the spelling of my post checked but there is no excuse for getting mixed up with your latin grammar – even though it is a common mistake. Should remember that going forward though – thanks for pointing it out so supportively.

Talking of support – the University were fantastic to me as a sporty student with special needs so I just hate this attitude of ‘them’ and ‘us’ – i.e. that they are somehow anti-student.

There has been dis-satisfaction with the Kelvin Hall provision for years so it isn’t something that has just been made up but it will be interesting to see how the debate progresses over the coming weeks and months as you say.

Just one point on your calculations – the article corrected itself to note that the £170K was additional i.e. more than is currently paid so would you not need to include what is currently paid in your calculations or does that not help with the point?

Alan Sharkey

Hi John,

The University currently pays about £170k per year to the council for the use of the Kelvin Hall facilities. Under Glasgow Life’s proposed contract renewal, the service charge would remain around £170k.

Ironically, I think the notice of correction needs to be corrected.

Hope this helps,


Scott Ramsay

So if – after the correction – the service charge is staying the same, and if the contribution to the Kelvin Hall renovations would be just £3.5m, how did the university’s spokespeople justify spending £9m to demolish a (I would say profitable but I don’t have any information on whether that’s true) facility and rebuild it for talented athlete support?