Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6582

Wednesday 18 March 2020

Vol cl No 24

pp. 414–433

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

A Discussion was held in the Michaelhouse Chancel. The Vice-Chancellor’s deputy, Mr Timothy Milner, was presiding, with the Registrary’s deputy, the Senior Proctor, the Junior Proctor and one other person present.

The following Report was discussed:

Report of the Council, dated 4 March 2020, on a new Students’ Union

(Reporter, 6580, 2019–20, p. 370).

Mr E. W. Parker Humphreys (President of Cambridge University Students’ Union, and Jesus College), read by the Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am a member of the Council but I make these remarks in my capacity as the President of Cambridge University Students’ Union.

There has been talk of a merger between this University’s two students’ unions for almost as long as either union has existed. Members of the University might remember the most recent of these proposals in 2016, which did not gain the support of the postgraduate student body at the time. Since then the relationship between CUSU and the Graduate Union has changed substantially, with closer working practices, the sharing of staff and services and the pooling of resources now well-established.

The question of the relationship between the two students’ unions has been given a new urgency by changes in the makeup of the student body. As postgraduate numbers approach parity with undergraduate numbers, and seem set to carry on rising for some years to come, it has become clear that postgraduate students are not well represented by the current dual structure. It is no longer viable to consider support and advocacy for postgraduate students as a specialist activity for the benefit a narrow group of students. For the students’ unions to properly represent the whole student body, we need a structure that places postgraduate students at the centre of our work. The University has come to recognise this too, and the proposal for a new students’ union mirrors in many ways the ongoing changes to the academic governance of postgraduate student matters.

The proposed changes will also allow us to do more with the resources available to us. The new students’ union will be able to offer more staff support both to sabbatical officers and to student volunteers. It will be able to focus more of its funds on work that directly benefits students. It will also be the second students’ union nationally to have a full-time BME (Black & Minority Ethnic) Officer.

In November, concurrent referendums were held of both the Graduate Union membership and the CUSU membership, and both approved the changes by sizable majorities. Those votes were the culmination of a process of student consultation which has now been in process for over a year, and which will be continued as we set up the new students’ union, Cambridge SU, and work to ensure that it is representative of all students at this University.