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Loss-making student union could pass debt on to students


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A students' union that has made losses for two years could pass the debt on to its students and graduates.

The University of South Wales has added rules that would allow it to charge its members, as well as those who have previously been members, in the eventuality that its union collapses financially.

Students at the university are automatically opted in to be members of University of South Wales Students’ Union (USWSU) even if they are not aware of their membership.

USWSU made losses in the two years that they have made public. An annual report for the year ending 30th June 2015 saw the union announcing a loss of £998. In the annual report for the year ending 30th June 2016 they reported an additional loss of £7,284.

Whilst their unrestricted reserves stood at £40,200 in the 2015 report, the more substantial loss in 2016 pushed those reserves down to £32,916.

Financial details for 2017 have not yet been released.

It’s likely that most of the university’s approximately 25,000 current students, as well as a number of recent graduates, could be affected by the rule.

Section 7 of the USWSU Constitution, titled ‘Liability of Members’, states that: “each Member undertakes to contribute to the assets of the Union in the event of its being wound up while he or she is a Member.”

It goes on to add that it if the union is wound up within a year of an individual ceasing to be a member they could still be asked to cough up, meaning even people who have already graduated and left the university or who have already formally withdrawn their membership could be affected if the union crumbled within a year of the date they either stopped being a student or withdrew membership.

The union's president, Megan Wilson, has defended the rule, saying that it was "democratically passed by student members."

Read her full statement here.

Whilst the liability is limited to £1 per student, with many of the 25,000 students being union members the union would be able to generate tens of thousands of pounds immediately from the rule - and even more by charging those who have already ceased to be members.

The Constitution goes on to list what that money would be used for, including covering the union’s debts and liabilities, and towards the costs of winding up the organisation.

The USWSU Constitution, which details this rule, was adapted from a template created by National Union of Students (NUS) in 2011, with this being one of a number of rules the union added itself. It does not appear in the mock template by NUS.

Chief Executive Officer of the Students’ Union, Sian Taylor, oversaw the introduction of the new Constitution. It is set to be reviewed every five years, with the last review taking place in 2013 - meaning it will be due for review this year.

If students concerned by these rules wish to opt out then the Constitution states that giving written notice to the University of South Wales Students’ Union can achieve this. Details on how to contact them can be found at:

Image: By University of South Wales - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 

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