Plans for University to bail out OUSU

first_imgStefan Baskerville, OUSU President, has revealed his proposals for fundamental changes to the way the Student Union is funded and organised.The plans include ending funding from Common Room affiliation fees and depending instead upon a large block grant from the University. The changes are designed to give an institution currently leaking money a stable financial model for the future.Other proposals include a change of premises from Thomas Hull House to somewhere less expensive with better access for wheelchair users. A location on George Street is being considered.At the moment, OUSU gets its funding from a mixture of University grants, Common Room affiliation fees and profit from its commercial wing, Oxford Student Services Limited (OSSL). However, OSSL’s income fluctuates year on year and affiliation fees are both unreliable, with regular college disaffiliation, and insufficient.Current University grants are not making up the difference, leading to losses of thousands of pounds every year.The proposed block-grant solution would remove the issue of cost from Common Rooms considering their affiliation status and would further end the current two-tier system of service provision. At the moment only affiliated colleges pay for services such as the Safety Bus and Student Advice Service which can be used by all students.However, the plans have already drawn criticism from some Common Room Presidents, frustrated that their tuition fee money will be spent on an institution they feel does not listen to them.Ricklef Wohlers, President of Keble MCR said, “I was shocked to have been told that OUSU has a funding problem, rather than a spending problem…I think the OUSU representatives do not understand why common rooms are disaffiliating: OUSU is simply too expensive.”He believes that many OUSU services are duplicates of services already provided by Common Rooms. He added, “Asking for more is not the solution. It’s spending less.”Rob Shearer, MCR President of disaffiliated Linacre, argues that OUSU is behaving as if Common Rooms do not exist, and that this proposal “institutionalizes OUSU’s unwillingness to respond to genuine democratic messages.” He described it as a move “to permanently enshrine the status quo. As the increasing ranks of disaffiliates will attest, the status quo is the problem.”The changes further raise serious questions about OUSU’s autonomy and independent status. Baskerville insisted, “There is no evidence to suggest the Unviersity would want to interfere with students decision-making. Almost every other Student Union in the country is funded by a block grant. Student Unions always need to make sure they are representative of students and maintain their autonomy of decision-making.”Sabbatical officers have stressed that decisions on all these changes need to be made urgently, and will be taking the proposals to a vote in OUSU council in 3rd week.Shearer described the tight schedule as paying only “lip service to consultation,” arguing that “this is the kind of consultation that precipitated the Lincoln MCR disaffiliation.”There is no certainty that OUSU will be able to negotiate block-grants from the University, particularly considering the failure last year of an alternative funding model.last_img