Union Grants slashed for 2nd consecutive year

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Nathan Stilwell
Deputy Editor-in-Chief

The block grants given by the University to the Glasgow University Union and the Queen Margaret Union will each be reduced by £5,300 for the academic year 2016/17. Both Unions will receive £228,700 each from the University, down from £234,000 in the previous academic year 2015/16.

Block grants have continually dropped in recent years. The University grant paid to the QMU was reduced by £5,418 between 2014 and 2015. Additionally the QMU had requested a one-off payment for essential maintenance for 2013/14, a one-off payment to improve disabled access in 2015-16, compensation for losses incurred as a result of the dispution caused by the district heating project and financial support to help with the introduction of the National Living Wage. All requests were rejected.

Jack Smith, president of the QMU, said: “While I can understand that the University is likely to enter into a lean period during which funding may be difficult to come by as a result of the campus redevelopment, I do not believe that the student bodies should suffer as a result. It is frustrating to see that our grant has remained largely unchanged for so long, and it is just as frustrating to see that the same is true at the GUU, GUSA, and SRC. Every year each of us asks for an increase in funding – more often than not, just a 2% increase in line with inflation – and our proposals are rejected by the University.”

GUU president Fergus Greig told the Glasgow Guardian: “The University last year gave the Union roughly £234,000 but this year reduced our grant by £6,000 the same as they did for the QMU’s grant. While this is not the outcome we desired from our grant submission we are confident that we can continue to provide the highest quality of student experience in all areas of our building.”

When asked if they feel the University still supports the QMU, Smith replied: “The question as to whether or not the University still supports the QMU is an interesting one. There are certain departments and individuals within the University who are very supportive and sympathetic to our situation. The Estates and Buildings Department and International Office have been helpful recently, for example. I would be reluctant to say that the University does not support the QMU at all as a result. However, as I think is illustrated by the Student Finance Sub-Committee’s approach to our requests for additional funding, I do not believe we receive as much support as we need.

“I believe that is particularly true because of the demands placed on the QMU by the University and by the wider student population. Student life has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. We are aware of that and are adapting to it. The University is equally aware of that. In 2006, we could sustain ourselves simply by selling cheap alcohol to students. That is no longer the case. We now place far more emphasis on providing our members and the students of this University opportunities to grow and develop outside of a formal teaching environment. The University is aware that that is the role of the Students’ Union today, and it (rightly) expects us to fulfil that role. To be ‘more than a bar’ is something they have said before. We believe we are more than a bar. The trouble is that the extra-curricular things that make us ‘more than a bar’ – such as our campaign work, the money we raise for charities, and the opportunities we can provide students through things like qmunicate – are non-profitable. They are not intended to make money, but rather to enhance the student experience. To do these things, we need to get money elsewhere and since our traditional means of making money are less profitable across the whole industry now, we must find an alternative source of income. We are assessing how we can change business practices to do that but I believe we will also need additional support from the University in order to continue to provide the students with the best services possible.”

A University spokesperson told the Glasgow Guardian: “The excellence of the student experience is one of the defining features of the University of Glasgow, and that includes the provision of the very best social and leisure facilities as well as a world class teaching and learning environment. Having vibrant, engaging and inclusive student unions is very much part of campus life and we continue to support both the QMU and the GUU – indeed we recently completed a major refurbishment of the GUU and extension to our sports facilities in the Stevenson building.”