QMU could close in three years from financial losses

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QMU’s honorary treasurer says the Union can only continue for three more years if annual losses of over £100,000 continue

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By Nathan Stilwell
News Editor

The Queen Margaret Union (QMU) has revealed it made a loss of £112,566 between 2014 and 2015, casting uncertainty over the future of the student union.

The honorary treasurer of the QMU, Terry Murphy, was asked at the recent annual general meeting how long the QMU could remain open if losses continued at the same rate, Murphy replied that the Union would remain open for three years, after which the remaining assets would be used to fund the closure of the building.

Max Sefton, president of the QMU, told The Glasgow Guardian: “The loss made by the QMU between 2014/15 was obviously substantial, (though in part this was due to significant investment in the building such as the improvements to Jim’s Bar, Scran and the Café) and we immediately began a process of reassessing all of our commercial areas to ensure that the QMU is serving the needs of students and ensuring that financial security is secured for the future.”

He continued: “With cash reserves of just over £400,000, it is true that losses at that level would be hard to sustain. However, we have taken a number of positive steps so far this year and the half yearly accounts demonstrated that in the financial year to December we had reduced our losses to £16,800 and our position would have been better still were it not for disruption to trade from the university heating project and a number of events being cancelled in the wake of the Paris attacks.”

In the first semester of the year, QMU had an income of £266,429 and an expenditure of £282,782, a deficit of £16,353. The deficit for the same period in 2014 was £39,964.

With the implementation of the living wage, Murphy predicted the expenditure for wages and salaries would increase by roughly £24,000.

The University grant to the QMU was reduced by £5,418 between 2014 and 2015. At the AGM it was confirmed that the block grant to the QMU would fall again next year.

Speaking about the grant, Sefton said: “This week the University has also announced that it will be cutting 2% of next year’s block grant from both the QMU and the GUU, which is obviously hugely disappointing. At the University’s student finance subcommittee we felt we made a strong case for why student services on campus are underfunded. With respect to the QMU we focused on the positive steps we have taken this year and the vast number of events that take place in our building but also the need for further investment in our building to maintain these opportunities for students.

“We also highlighted that the University’s block grant to the four student bodies has not increased in a decade and the University’s spending on student services per head in Glasgow is at least a third lower than comparable institutions such as Edinburgh University Students Association. Nonetheless the University announced that it would be cutting the budget of both unions for the year ahead.”

“It is unlikely that the QMU will return to a position of surplus this financial year and we face significant pressures going forwards. Nonetheless we are committed to developing our services to enhance the student experience and ensure opportunities for students to socialise and develop their skills outwith academic study, all the while working our hardest to ensure the organisation operates on a sound commercial footing.

“With changing demographics on campus, students tight for money and going out less than ever and an almost fifty year old building, it is important that the QMU manages to change and adapt to new circumstances and we believe that our next 125 years can see the QMU play just as important in life at the University of Glasgow as it has for the past 125.

“Alongside this, in the future, for the good of all students, we would like to see all four student bodies working together to encourage the university to reconsider the funding issue.”

The annual general meeting also showed that the QMU currently has 2,418 members, compared to 3,240 last year. However, clubs and societies affiliated with the Union rose to 80 this year, and life members increased by 480.

A spokesperson for the University said: “The university is supportive of the QMU as an important part of campus life. We have been working closely with the QMU management to ensure that it continues to provide excellent services and facilities to our students.”