Student unions in Britain

Your student union will be a source of solace, support, fun and frolics throughout your time at college.

For most students it is the place for sandwiches, stationary, big name bands and undiscovered stars live on stage. It is for aqua-aerobics, accommodation advice, a shoulder to cry on, for keep fit and for sport. It is for debating and dramatics, for quiet philosophising over a pint and noisy music, student TV, student radio, student newspapers, student magazines, community action, mad charity carnivals, fashion shows, grand balls and tacky discos.

Student unions provide all students with a whole range of activities, events and facilities, from cheap bars through to trained counselling. It costs nothing to be a member of your student union, in fact, every single student is automatically a member of the student union and automatically involved in running the business. This is your union and you do with it as you will. If you want to learn lambada, if you want to parachute, if you want to disco til dawn then go to your student union. If it isn’t on you can make it happen - because student unions are run by all the students, and what you want is what can happen.

Your student union will be more than parties, advice, food, drink, sport, shopping and support. In addition it will also represent your views to the college administration, to your course directors, and through NUS to national government and organisations. If you want the library hours extended, if you want a new hall of residence, if you want a new sports hall, your student union will work to present your views to the college committees and decision makers.

International Students

Student unions offer special support for international students. If you run into any problems go along to your student union welfare centre and they will be happy to help you out, whether it’s with homesickness, visa problems, financial worries or academic pressures. There’s also a special organisation which represents the interests of international students in the UK. It’s called the United Kingdom Council for Overseas Students Affairs and your student union can put you in touch with them if you need their special help and advice.

Every year all students vote in a secret ballot to elect a team of student representatives to run the day to day operation of the student union. This team of students is the Executive and they will be working for you. You can expect them to work very hard, listen your every whim and wish, and do their utmost to ensure you have your say.

Nearly all the student unions of the colleges and universities in the country are members of the National Union of Students, and through NUS your student union will represent your views to a whole range of external organisations, to the media and to Parliament.

NUS is a confederation of student unions, representing over two million students in the United Kingdom. It is one of the biggest youth organisations in the world, and is widely respected at home and abroad.

NUS provides research, information, training and support for your college student union, and provides national representation, speaking up for 3 million UK students, forcing national and international debate on policy, equality and opportunities for young people in education.

NUS has over 70 professional members of staff, in eight regional offices, in our national offices in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and at the NUS Headquarters in London. They provide support and information to all the student unions in NUS and help with everything from hiring bands through to the latest research on housing legislation.

Every Easter around 1500 students from all the colleges in NUS meet in Blackpool for a four day NUS Conference to debate issues of concern to students, to decide policy and to elect a team of national student representatives and a national president to act on your behalf nationwide.

The national student officers are held accountable to you through the NUS Regional Councils and National Councils held each term, and to the annual NUS Conference in Blackpool. Every single student has the opportunities to present their views to NUS through the democratic structures of their student union and because of the extensive network of local NUS area student officers, and the regional NUS officers it is very easy to get involved and to have your say.

For more information on student unions, on NUS and current issues for students at universities in the UK have a look at our daily updated website on   It’s packed with information and advice and there’s a special section just for new students.

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