University of London battle over students' union

Students’ unions from across London have created a new body that could replace the University of London Union (ULU), aiming to stop the university from taking over union buildings.

August 8, 2013

The London Union of Students has been set up to represent students in the capital after university leaders voted to shut ULU in May.

It followed a working review which said ULU was duplicating many of the services provided by individual members of the University of London and did not justify the £800,000 it received in annual subscriptions.

Voter turnout was also very low, with only 3,000 out of 120,000 students voting in last year’s university-wide elections for union officers, the review said.

However, representatives from 11 London-based higher education institutions have now formed a new executive board of the London Union of Students, which could take over from ULU, due to close at the end of 2013-14.

Universityof London colleges represented include University College London, Goldsmiths, Heythrop, Royal Holloway, King’s College London and Queen Mary, while London Metropolitan University is also represented.

ULU president Michael Chessum, who was elected to LUS’ new executive at a meeting on 31 July, said the relationship between the new organisation and ULU had yet to be decided, though officers at ULU have been heavily involved in its creation.

“LUS could lay claim as successor to ULU’s headquarters on Malet Street, and the creation of LUS is part of a strategy to save the ULU building and retain it as democratically run and in student hands,” Mr Chessum said.

He added the group’s founding strategy document, which is due to be discussed at the executive’s first meeting, would state its commitment to social justice, including fighting for decent and affordable housing, defending the NHS; the environment; workers’ rights; students’ rights at work; and access to education.

LUS has also resolved to formally write to the National Union of Students (NUS) to request two observers from its National Executive Council to supervise the formation of the group, while LUS will submit funding proposals to students’ unions and other potential donors in the autumn term.

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