At Cardiff University in Wales, the student union’s top priority list is similar to any corporate charter reflecting what an organisation hopes to achieve during the financial year. It reads like this. “We aspire to have 90% of the union’s staff rating the students’ union as a great place to work; we will ensure that at least 20% of all union staff have attained formal qualifications through an in-house staff development programme; we will ensure that at least 2% of turnover is invested into our infrastructure; minimise our negative environmental impact and maximise our positive social impact.”
Surprising isn’t it? Well, there’s more. This year the students’ union has received a block grant from the university totalling 2.6 million pounds and it operates from a five-storey building that houses the office, social spaces where students can meet and surf. The union also runs a letting out agency to help students who are looking for suitable accommodation and commercial spaces such as banks, ATMs, restaurants, and retail stores such as university shops and even a night club that can host 5000 people.
“A lot of what we earn from commercial activities and society fees goes into maintaining the building and the rest is spent on staff, resources and facilities to support the university students and the 250 student-led groups,” says Elliot Howells, president, student’s union, Cardiff University.
A 21-year-old student taking a second sabbatical year from his BSc business information systems degree at Cardiff School of Computer Science and Informatics, Howells got involved in the student’s union towards the end of his first year. He was the vice president of the union before being elected president this year.
“I wanted to be more involved with the students’ union. The experience has benefited me immensely,” he says.
He acts as the key link between the university’s vice chancellor, pro vice chancellors, council, the senate and the national union of students. He is also responsible for the financial position of the student’s union.
I wanted to be more involved with the students’ union. The experience has benefited me immensely ---Elliot Howells, president, student’s union, Cardiff University