Getting the union funded

The ways of funding a students’ union vary. NUS believes that if the governors of a college have a duty to establish a students’ union, then simultaneously they have an equal duty to ensure its survival.

This is achieved by adequately funding it, or providing a mechanism for the students’ union to receive funds.

Students’ unions are usually funded in one, or a combination, of the following ways:

Per - Capita Union Fees 

This essentially means an amount paid per student. Again, this can come from the college.

In the past, colleges have charged a registration fee or enrolment fee to students on starting a course, that may contain an element that is the students’ union fee. This system is now prohibited for 16-19 year olds in FE colleges by the DfES.

Block Grant

This is a lump sum, usually paid in termly instalments. It is generally agreed by the corporation and paid by the college itself.

The advantage of a block grant is that the students’ union can annually negotiate its income. The disadvantage is that it does not necessarily increase with increasing student numbers.

Draw up  your budgets in March

Most colleges start drawing up their budgets in March for the next financial year (01 August to the 31 July). The budget will normally be agreed by the governors in late June or early July.

Therefore, if you want to get your submission considered, it is important that you submit it to the first governors’ meeting of the year.

Similarly, the submission process should be repeated annually so as to ensure you retain your funding at adequate levels.

Provide detailed well-argued submissions for obtaining funding

NUS recommends that students’ unions provide detailed, well-argued submissions for obtaining funding. The amount you receive is obviously dependant upon the size of your college and its ethos.

If the senior management are committed to supporting a students’ union and see it as a benefit and a marketing opportunity to attract students, the funding is likely to be more generous.

Set some goals and objectives

The best method of working out how much funding you should need is to set some goals and objectives for the union and identify activities that you will need to undertake, e.g. once officers are elected you will probably need to arrange some training for them (which NUS can provide).

So you will need to put an amount in the funding submission for training. It is far better to submit a request that shows that you have thought about why you need the money, than to ask for, say, £2000 with no indication of what you’re going to spend it on!

It may also be helpful to find out what levels of funding are provided to other colleges within your locality, as this could be useful in your negotiations.

Payment of funds is via the college

In nearly all colleges the payment of funds is done via the college, usually by the Finance Director. Many students unions have problems over the late arrival of their union funds.

If your funds are arriving late you need to meet with the Finance Director to:

  • Set deadlines each year (term) by which time the money should be received; and/or
  • For the Autumn term, when many students register late, agree on a percentage of the total funding (say 70-80%) which can be paid soon after the beginning of term.
  • The remainder can then be paid later in the term.