As a charity the Students’ Union operates on a budget every year that is based on the income that we can achieve and the cost of our activity.
Students’ Unions (SU’s) are unusual charities; we have an overall charitable aim of the advancement of education of students at Aberystwyth University for the public benefit by:
- Promoting the interests and welfare of students at Aberystwyth University during their course of study and representing, supporting and advising Students;
- Being the recognised representative channel between Students and Aberystwyth University or any other external bodies and
- Providing social, cultural, sporting and recreational activities and forums for discussions and debate for the personal development of our students.
We try to primarily consider the will of students, but also benchmark our work against the Students’ Union sector, and we need to consider the expectations of the University and our impact on the local community. In fulfilling our objectives and trying to consider the needs and wants of our stakeholders, SUs have evolved into broad organisations with a diverse range of activity.
At Aberystwyth we:
- help students make friends and build communities via Clubs and Societies by offering support and development
- support students to volunteer and have a positive impact on the local community and their employability
- help students to shape and have a positive influence on their academic experience by electing, training and supporting Course Reps
- enable students to decide our political and ethical positions and priorities via democratic decision making
- act as a voice for students by representing their views and interests to the University and other organisations nationally and locally such as the Health Board and the National Union of Students
- facilitate initiatives that support positive mental and physical health or try to minimise negative impact
- provide spaces for students to meet, socialise and carry out a range of activity.
- continue to develop the foundations of the SU ensuring that we operate to best practice, within the law and in a way that ensures our long-term future.
All of these considerations and activities, and the fact that the SU means different things to different people, means that we have a range of costs to consider when we budget.
In terms of our income, like all Students’ Unions, we are primarily funded by the University who provide us with a block grant of £700,000 (which makes up 81% of all our budgeted income). There is no set figure that must be provided from Universities to Students’ Unions and these differ hugely at different institutions. We recognise that it’s currently a tough economic climate for Universities and as such our block grant has remained static for the last 3 years; however we’re genuinely appreciative that this hasn’t been cut back and understand the challenges our University is facing. The University also provides us with a supplement of £50,000 to fund the majority of costs associated with running inter University sport (BUCS).
Aside from the money granted by the University, and as we don’t run the shop or the bar (which will be a surprise to many students) we only have a limted number of possible income sources that we can consider, and these generally comprise of external marketing/advertising income opportunities. We do have a number of sports based events including Varsity, Aber 7s and Superteams, but these events mostly break even. Often, Varsity costs more than we make from the sale of Varsity stash. We also have an income stream from vehicle hire to Clubs / Societies and community groups, but the income gained mostly balances with the minibus costs that the SU has to fund. Students also buy membership to Team Aber which means that they are insured to take part in a variety of club and society activity. The £3 payable from students contributes to the insurance cost to the SU.
While the block grant remains static and marketing income is slightly reducing the SU is faced with an annual challenge about how to cover the costs of continuing to deliver the same or developed services from one year to the next with costs increasing with inflation. This year the costs of student group activity insurance has also increased, and as such the SU now needs to increase the cost of Team Aber membership to £4 for 2019-20; there will also be a slight increase in the cost of Superteams entry. The SU aims to make activity as affordable as possible to all students, and would rather avoid any increase in the costs of participating, so have kept any increase to an absolute minimum.