"Failing" and "in decline"; QMU releases damning internal report
The Queen Margaret Union’s own strategic report has shown that less than half of University of Glasgow students have a positive perception of the union, and that it has been in financial decline for five consecutive years.
The strategic plan, released this month and seen by The Glasgow Guardian, includes research conducted on behalf of the union by Redbrick Research. The research is preceded by several years of economic failure for the union, as well as reputational damage as a result of a Glasgow Guardian investigation revealing that it had no sexual misconduct policy and that it had failed to report allegations made against a former board member.
Over 1,800 University of Glasgow students, both members and non-members of the union, took part in the research. The findings concluded that only 13% of students regularly use one of the QMU’s services, with six in ten students rarely or never using their services at all.
The QMU have acknowledged that they have “the lowest [positive perception] of all the student bodies” and have “grappled with understanding [their] place”. When asked about their perceptions of the QMU, 54% of the research respondents had either a neutral or negative perception. In response to the findings, the QMU report that their “commercial services have been in steady decline” and they have “failed to invest in [their] spaces.”
The Net Promoter Score of the Queen Margaret Union (which measures the loyalty of customers and their willingness to recommend services) currently stands at minus 13, something they aim to increase to positive 10 by 2022.
The report also shows that the union has been in financial decline for the last five consecutive years, with their most significant financial loss being in 2017/18, with a £178k deficit. The union declares their financial position as being “extremely precarious.”
Within the strategic report, the QMU stated that they “have not met the challenges that [they] have faced head on” and would like to promote the value of trustworthiness of the union. By 2022, they pledge to “regularly communicate what [they’re] doing, answering difficult questions honestly and proactively engaging on challenging issues.” Nonetheless, the projected plan does not immediately address changes in relation to concerns about their trustworthiness and safeguarding.
The report states that they will aim to have “clear processes” and “are well connected with the right university systems so that [they] can play an active role in identifying and supporting students of concern/at risk”. Yet this does not form part of their plan for a further two to three years. Moreover, there will also be a two to three year delay before they plan to “review all HR policies and procedures to ensure compliance and good practice” - something made evident by the fact that the union has still not updated its policy relating to sexual misconduct, despite admitting wrongdoing following the exposé by The Glasgow Guardian.
There was a general negative consensus amongst the research respondents, with one QMU member stating “if someone were to ask me why they should become a member, or why it may be better than other unions, I would struggle to come up with an answer.'' Another QMU member said they were ‘“especially unhappy with food provided in The Food Factory and overall staff friendliness.” One non-member added that “the union is not very nice inside. Bar is sweaty and badly furnished.”
In response, the QMU plan to introduce a number of new schemes to increase footfall and positive perceptions of the union, such as a “Give it a Go” programme and an “Events and Entertainment” programme to provide students with more opportunities to engage and try new activities.