Investigations

UoN Competitive Societies Request To Be Grouped With AU Societies For Funding

Students at the University of Nottingham have suggested that ‘competitive’ societies’ funding should be reclassified by the Students’ Union (SU) in order to provide them with grants similar to those received by Athletics Union (AU) teams.

It is believed that such ‘competitive’ funding would be welcomed for the hours of training/practice, extensive travel and competitive events that these societies would require, which are in parallel to the needs of AU societies.

A ‘competitive’ society refers to a society that participates in external competitions and has regular training or rehearsals.

Nathan Chalk, President of Nottingham Debating Union, outlined his reasons for forwarding this proposal to the Change it webpage.

Chalk stated that “[funding has] been a problem for my society… It’s silly to think that all societies can be effectively managed in the same way when there are huge differences, and those that, like AU clubs, focus on competitions and training, can surely be best provided for with the AU.” [Competitive societies also] “often offer as much in terms of assisting the university’s reputation – perhaps more in some cases.”

In spite of the fact that the LBSS regularly competes at national level, it has not been allowed to become part of the AU.

President of the LBSS, Lottie Valks, agreed with Chalk, outlining that their initial SU grant for 2013 was not even enough to cover the costs of updating equipment such as dresses and tail-suits, essential for competitions.

In spite of the fact that the LBSS regularly competes at national level, it has not been allowed to become part of the AU.

However, Valks did state that the “LBSS has gained sponsorship in light of the cuts and… the SU gave us more grant once we brought our issues to them. So they’ve been supportive on an individual level but we are still supporting Chalk’s issue”.

BellyDancing Soc 1

Belly Dance Society is in a similar position, forced to raise funds independently in order to cover shortfalls in financing from the SU.

Belly Dance Society President, Sackouni Dumeesha, similarly maintained that there are disadvantages to not having a larger grant from the SU. “[Although] we are more motivated to raise funds on our own to offer our members better socials…the reduction in grant does mean that we can’t afford new, fancy costumes and cheaper socials.”

“Purchasing music costs a lot of money, so the shortfall in funding will be a big issue for us for this academic year”.

The lack of a competitive grant from the SU has also placed Philip Wimble, the President of BlowSoc, in a difficult position this year.

He confirmed that “Blowsoc is a music society which competes at national level and also plays regularly for the SU…Putting on… events, paying for professional conductors, and purchasing music costs a lot of money, so the shortfall in funding will be a big issue for us for this academic year.”

“As a Union, we are putting greater emphasis on being proactive”.

Impact asked SU Activities Officer, Will Knapp, about the complaints of these competitive societies.

He commented: “The purpose of the grant is to support a society’s activity and, as a Union, we are putting greater emphasis on being proactive in fundraising or seeking sponsorship. This year we’ve seen a greater number of societies successfully apply for sponsorship from local to international companies and Union support is always available to any society that needs advice.”

Chalk’s proposal has received 93 votes in favour of his Change It petition, indicating that some students see the situation a bit differently. The proposal will be reviewed by the SU in the next coming weeks.

Emily Metcalf

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5 Comments on this post.
  • Nathan
    7 November 2013 at 16:04
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    To be clear, I’m completely in favour of Societies having to seek sponsorship. But while my Society doesn’t have enough money even with sponsors to continue our high standards, certain Clubs get sufficient grants to subsidise socials while pursuing what are effectively luxury activities.

    Hopefully Will can comment on the salient point – which is why AU Clubs deserve such vast amounts more funding.

    The current system benefits only the AU, *all* societies regardless of nature are losing out.

  • Anil Parmar
    7 November 2013 at 16:06
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    When I was finance and services officer last year, we changed the funding system as it was clear that some groups were not receiving enough funding, and that the amount that they could receive year on year could vary incredibly.

    This year the grants were allocated by the treasurers producing a complete breakdown of their expected incoming and outgoing funds based on previous year activity, so it surprises me to hear that some groups didn’t receive a correct amount. If it is the case that the SU doesn’t have enough money to give out to meet the basic needs of a society, a better option would be to request more money from the University instead of treating them like sports clubs. It was clear that this couldn’t happen last year however, simply because the previous model of allocating money was even worse.

    There may however be a case for ‘competitive’ societies to be grouped and funded differently, however I think that issue should be taken to societies council. It’s important to remember however that the students’ union only receives a limited amount of money allocated for societies from the University, and that the more expensive societies would always likely struggle to get enough grant money to cover all of their costs. These are factors that need to be considered when society presidents vote on whether a new society should be affiliated or not.

  • Matthew Styles
    8 November 2013 at 12:34
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    Moving away from the principles of this for a moment, it’s important to note some technical differences.

    The ‘Athletic Union/AU’ doesn’t exist as it did.

    It is now joint between the University and the SU, and funding allocations are different. For societies, the SU funds groups from their own budget. For sports, it is joint University/SU decisions and comes from University budgets directly.

    The University’s sports department aren’t best-placed to decide funding for non-sports, even if they are competitive activities.

    I don’t think this is an issue of being grouped with sports/the old AU; I think it’s an issue of grant allocations for societies, and the size of our total societies budget.

    The problem with the overall budget is that something else would have to give. The SU could run fewer education campaigns, provide less to the student media groups, or employ fewer front-facing staff members for example, but clearly these things would make many others [quite rightfully] unhappy.

    When I held the budget for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Society, I equally wished that Societies Exec would allocate us the capital we asked for to buy new tents, fund transport to/from expeditions, or cover the fees for Supervisors/Assessors. We’re not a competitive society, but members do put in thousands of hours in volunteering activity, meet royalty, directly improve employability and so on. Problem is, there’s not an infinite amount of money and it needs to be split up some how.

    So I get the principle, and agree with it entirely, particularly at a time when maintenance allowances are being decreased in real terms and the cost of living is ever-rising, but I don’t think this particular suggestion is the solution.

    • Nathan
      8 November 2013 at 16:17
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      I’ve been looking into this in a lot of detail since initially forwarding the idea – and I have encountered that this may be an issue. Still, perhaps the problem is in the way funding is allocated to Sports teams (and given that the University prefers funding them and wants to maximise control over them, it seems strange that the SU surrendered what is a powerful bargaining tool). Getting the SU lobbying for us is vital to addressing general funding, and allowing similar models to be grouped – I would never advocate cutting back on vital SU campaigns (although campaigning groups again have their own funding model).

      • Matthew Styles
        8 November 2013 at 23:48
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        It’s probably worth noting what the SU managed to secure out of the situation. The University wanted to pretty much own sport, and focus almost solely on competitive/elite sport, essentially ignoring entry-level sport and non-elite participation. They hardly ‘surrendered’ to the University, particularly when additional funding, staffing, and general resources was secured against the possibility of a nearly complete takeover.

        I agree though, our Union’s officers are there to lobby on behalf of us, and we should make sure they are doing so effectively and winning for students. Particularly given the University’s overall strategy, I think there are some very creative ways the SU could be lobbying for additional sports funding, for example.

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