Needed: 2nd Student Loan Required For Joining Societies

Having too many hobbies can lead to a hefty bill - Holly Wilson looks into the costs associated with joining societies and questions whether its fair to put a price on passion.

Before arriving at university, I had a list of societies I wanted to join as long as my arm. I was adamant that I wanted to be involved in at least five, and that would be how I would make all my friends. However, the truth is that I have managed to reach the middle of my degree as a member of only four in total, and half of those ended up being course related societies.

Welcome Week comes along and societies seem to glint promisingly, a representation of what university has to offer. But then it’s over, along with all its opportunities that have been swallowed up by the commitments of work and the pressure of meeting new people. At the Welcome Fair, I found myself, like many others, in the large tent at Portland Hill walking around the cluster of little tables, wondering what would take my fancy. I joined two societies, both revolving around my passion for writing, and collected the codes for the Hill Walking Society, CakeSoc and Film Making Society.

“Immediately it became clear that I would have to prioritise”

What I soon came to realise was that these would all cost money. The reality hit with my first outing with my course, when I was informed about the History Society and other course based ones. I’m a joint honours student, so I looked into joining both. Like most course based societies, they were £5 for the year or £12 for three years. I invested in both and soon realised that there would be a fee for all of my interests. BlogSoc cost £2, it didn’t break the bank, but add that to the price of Film Society £5, CakeSoc £4, Creative Writing £3 and the Book Club £1. Immediately it became clear that I would have to prioritise my passions.

“Are these restrictions hindering our chances to express ourselves?”

When looking into the lists of societies on the Student’s Union home page, so many unique and intimate societies leap out at you; from Hide and Seek Society and CSSA to Duke of Edinburgh, but is it really fair to be charged for these clubs? The geographical and religious groups charge anything from £2 to £5 for membership. Political societies from £2 to £5 also. Are these restrictions hindering our chances to express ourselves?

Compared to other universities, Nottingham stands in line with pricing. For example, the University of East Anglia charges a very similar price for their Creative Writing society, standing at £4. The University of Oxford sees a slight difference in the price for many societies, such as the Irish society, which stands at £5 compared to Nottingham’s £3. Though the prices seem standardised, is it really fair to expect students to pay these stacking prices to maintain their hobbies?

“These entrance fees are seen as a contribution to the upkeep and funding of activities”

What of course must be considered is the societies ability to fund themselves. These entrance fees are seen as a contribution to the upkeep and funding of activities within the clubs themselves. However, is it not down to the University or Student’s Union to help fund these societies? When we are already paying for multiple other elements of university life, at the heart of these costs being the rising tuition fees, should the access to at least our core course societies be free? For many of the course societies they do not provide enough and many of their events such as bar crawls require additional funds.

“What is the price of passion?”

Societies are no doubt an excellent way to meet like minded people and explore hobbies, but the costs can be seen as a hindrance. When you are paying anything up to £5 a society, many students would find themselves limited to the amount of societies that they can join, having to prioritise and not explore all they should. It begs the question, what is the price of passion?

Holly Wilson

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One Comment
  • Boris
    11 February 2018 at 11:59
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    Having been on multiple committees (including the roles of both treasurer and president) over multiple years during my time at University, I can say that the upkeep fee for joining most societies is pretty fair. Most societies receive very little funding from the SU, as the SU itself has been spread too thin – there are now too many societies for it to lay out appropriate funding for each, and pay its staff/other overheads etc. Whilst there deserves to be a chance for each and every society to exist, it is ultimately up to the members and to the committees to keep them afloat, as the SU provides them with the basics, venues, insurance etc. After all those things are sorted, the layout even for Gold level society is low, standing at around £200 for a full year (though the society did have a tidy sum in its reserve). For other societies its even less; a separate committee I was on once received £100 to last the whole year with only £17 in reserve. This puts them at an immediate disadvantage in terms of what events they can offer, as many events – even pub quizzes have a significant cost to the society. Hence why the joining fee is so important. A course based society I was involved with charged £10 for 3 years or £4 for 1. We very much relied on getting twenty freshers or more each year at £10 to be able to offer the events that the members wanted, and not go broke. Whilst an initial fee such as that is off-putting, what is true is the month and a half grace period to join a society free, on the interest list during freshers week/month, is there to sort this out – it gives the option of experiencing and testing a society without paying a fee. If you like it there’s an expectation to join, and if you don’t no money has been wasted. I was not flush with money, and had to prioritise the same as everyone else, but the reality is that the ones that you are *truly* passionate about are the ones that you’ll make time (and money) for and its very easy after the first year to realise that there’s not a cat-in-hells chance of being an active member of too many, as there’s simply not the time. Realistically there’s maybe a chance of fitting 5 societies max in, depending on the regularity of their programme of events. Obviously course based, as they’re the people you’re stuck with for three years are probs top of the list, and the least time consuming, then maybe a couple of skill based sports/arts ones depending on what you like, and finally pure social/interest based ones. Ignoring BUCs sports and the ridiculous price points of the gym etc., you’re looking at a layout of maybe £25/year (2nd/3rd) max, and maybe £40 (to include course based ones) in your first year to join each one, but that’s if you somehow find the time to do them all. Fresher’s and Refresher’s both give an opportunity before coursework becomes serious to get involved with a plethora for free, but the guarantee is you won’t love everything you try, and even if you do you’d have to prioritise time and therefore only choose the favourites that are sustainable. In that case once you’ve made that choice there’s no reason to spend out any more money than required. If you want to join anything else, then you would have the opportunity to test it for free anyway. But putting a price on the continuation passion is silly – if you have danced your whole life, and want to continue to do it at Uni then join the society – yes it costs but only as much as is required for it to function, and its a hell of a lot cheaper than the alternatives (finding a private school to continue); equally if you want to start something new, that will cost too. Life is not free, and whilst some stuff you could do on your own for free (e.g. Creative Writing), if you do want the other stuff that comes with the group aspect (Lit Circles, Coffeeshop Critique, Radio, Guest authors/publishers/agents, Strange as Fiction (especially!!) etc.) then £3 is hardly breaking the bank for making friendships, and networking, and that’s just one example. All societies offer something more than they seem, and all societies need the sufficient finances to do it. University societies are subsidised and cheaper than anything you’ll get in the real world, where entrance and session fees are inordinately higher even if considered cheap. It’s a good lesson in time and finance management – for example a club that I do now I am a graduate is £5/1 hour session, with £25/year insurance, and £25 year association fee. The equivalent at Uni was £15/year to join and be insured, and £2/2 hour session. The subsidy is obvious, and whilst maybe unaffordable for some students, is impossible to make cheaper, unless the SU is better funded. For that to be the case, we’d have to pay for our membership to that, as the £9k does not go to the Union but to the University. A membership to the union would quite rightly cost a much higher amount than an initial £25 outlay at the start of the academic year. It would waive this, but if it did so it would have to be the same cost for all students, but not all students are as engaged with societies or the SU, so if only those who wanted to be in societies paid, the finances would still not add up, but if all students were made to pay it would be another cost that would only benefit a minority rather than a majority. Why should I pay for someone elses’ experiences, when I could pay much less for my own?

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