Code of Practice Pursuant to the Education Act 1994 Part II: Students’ Unions
(1) Part II of the Education Act 1994 places a range of responsibilities on the governing bodies of university institutions in regard to the organisation of students’ unions. This code of Practice, issued by the Council with the agreement of the Union of Students, sets out how the University will carry out its responsibilities under the Act.
(2) The Union of Students qualifies as a students’ union within section 20 of the Act; no other organisation of students in the University falls within the definition.
(3) (a) The Union has a written Memorandum and Articles of Association. Approval of the Memorandum and Articles of Association and any amendments will be the responsibility of the Council.
(b) The Memorandum and Articles of Association will be subject to review by the Council at intervals of not more than five years. This need not mean a special quinquennial review of the constitution. The Council may take the opportunity to review the terms of the Memorandum and Articles of Association should the Union at any time bring forward proposed amendments.
(4) (a) Students have a right under the Act not to be a member of the Union.
(b) Students who wish to exercise the right of non-membership should write to the President and complete a form issued to them by the President.
(c) To avoid frivolous or tactical opting out and re-joining, the period in which students may make the decision to opt out shall be one week from their date of registration each academic year and the decision, once made, will hold good for the remainder of the academic year.
(d) The President of the Union will inform the Registrar of the names of those students who have exercised their right of non-membership as soon as practically possible.
(e) Students will be informed of their right not to be a member, of the mechanism by which they can exercise that right and what the consequences of non-membership will be and of any service made available for those students who have opted out of membership. The University will publish annually in its undergraduate and postgraduate prospectuses a statement conveying this information. The University will also include a statement conveying the information to students commencing study and returning students in pre-registration materials.
(5) (a) It is the responsibility of the Council under the Act to ensure that students who exercise the right of non-membership are not unfairly disadvantaged with regard to the provision of services or otherwise by reason of their having done so.
(b) Students who exercise the right of non-membership shall enjoy all of the facilities provided by the University for its students including use of the Union building and all of the social, catering and welfare services provided by the Union, except that:
(i) they will not be permitted to stand for Union office, or office in any Union-affiliated club or society, or to participate in the elections for such offices or participate in any of the democratic processes of the Union;
(ii) on joining any Union-affiliated club or society they may be required to pay an additional fee, the amount to be determined by the Union Council, but which will not exceed £20;
(iii) on the occasions when priority access to events in the Union is restricted to members, they will enjoy only that access accorded to non-members;
(iv) the University has made no special arrangements for the provision of services or facilities for non-members of the Union, since it is satisfied that the provision made by the University and the Union for all students, whether they are members of the Union or not, is sufficient to ensure that those who have exercised the right of non-membership under the Act are not unfairly disadvantaged.
(c) Students who have exercised the right of non-membership will be able to stand for those offices and to participate in the elections for those offices open to all students e.g. the second student representative of the Council, the second or third student representative on the Senate, student membership of a Faculty Board and representatives on Staff Student Liaison Committees.
(d) There will be no financial compensation to students who have exercised their right of non-membership.
(6) (a) The Council shall satisfy itself that appointment to major Union offices is by election in a secret ballot in which all full members are entitled to vote.
(b) Major Union offices shall be defined as sabbatical union offices.
(c) Elections to major offices shall be conducted in accordance with the following:
(i) the provisions set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association and the Election Regulations pursuant to it;
(ii) the Registrar (or his/her nominee) may observe any part of the election process and an annual report will be made to the Council on the conduct and outcome of the elections to the major Union offices.
(d) No person shall hold sabbatical office or paid elected Union office for more that two academic years and this shall be provided for in the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Students’ Union.
(7) (a) The Students’ Union will present its annual budget and fully audited accounts to a duly convened General Meeting. The Union Company(ies) will present audited accounts and annual report(s) to duly convened Annual General meeting(s). The Union Company(ies) budget will be presented to duly convened Management Committee Meeting(s). Financial reports will be available to all students and to the University Council on request.
(b) The annual budget for the Students’ Union and accounts for the Union and Union Company(ies) will be presented to a meeting of the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the University Council each year during the Autumn term.
(c) Management Accounts for the Union and Company(ies) will be made available twice a year covering the Autumn and Spring Terms to the University’s Finance Director during the succeeding term. The University’s Finance Director and the Students’ Union Financial and Commercial Services Officer will meet to review these Management Accounts.
(d) The Students’ Union and Services Company(ies) are subject to the University’s internal auditing procedure and will make books and records available to the internal auditor on request.
(e) Borrowing by the Students’ Union or Union Company(ies) which produces a liability, contingent or otherwise, on the University, will require the University’s prior written consent.
(8) Procedures for the allocation of resources to clubs and societies affiliated to the Union should be fair and set down in writing and freely accessible to all students. A copy of the procedures should be sent annually to the Finance Director.
(9) (a) Any decision by the Union to affiliate to an external organisation shall be recorded in the minutes of the relevant Union body stating the name of the organisation and the details of any subscription or similar fee paid or proposed to be paid and of any donation made or proposed to be made to the organisation. The minutes should be freely accessible to all students and a copy sent to the Registrar for report to the Council.
(b) The Union will publish in its annual accounts a list of its affiliation to any external organisations and details of any subscriptions, fees or donations paid to such organisations in the past year.
(c) The Union shall bring annually the full list of affiliations to members by display on notice boards and in Union publications. A requisition may be made by 2% of the members of the Union that the question of continued affiliation to any particular organisation be decided upon by a secret ballot of all members. The time-limit and procedures for such a requisition shall be published along with the list of affiliations.
(d) Notwithstanding the provisions contained in the Union Memorandum and Articles of Association, these procedures shall apply to affiliation to the National Union of Students.
(10) Any student or groups of students who are dissatisfied in their dealings with the Union in relation to the provisions of the Act or who claim to be unfairly disadvantaged by reason of their having exercised the right of non-membership should complain in the first instance to the President of the Union who will investigate the complaint and respond as soon as possible. If the complainants are not satisfied at this stage they may refer the complaint to the Registrar who will investigate the complaint and respond as soon as possible. If they are still dissatisfied after the Registrar has dealt with the complaint they may then refer the complaint to an independent person who will be appointed for the purpose by the Council. When the Council appoints an independent person to hear a complaint it will specify a time by which the complaint should be investigated and a report submitted to the Council which shall, if the complaint is upheld, prescribe an effective remedy.
(11) The activities of the Union are restricted by the law relating to charities. Consequently the Union cannot have a political purpose and must not seek to advance the interest of a political party, but it may seek to influence opinion on issues relating directly to its own stated purposes, provided such activity is within its powers. The ways in which charities may or may not legitimately engage in political activities is the subject of advice and legislation from time to time by the Charities Commissioners, courts of law, Parliament and government departments.
(12) The University is responsible under section 43 of the Education (No.2) Act 1986 for the provision of safeguards to ensure freedom of speech within the law. The way in which the University carries out this duty is set out in Regulation 31.
(13) The University shall bring to the attention of students annually by publication in the pre-registration materials this code of practice, any restrictions imposed on the activities of the Union by the law relating to charities and the provisions of section 43 of the Education (No.2) Act 1985 and the code of practice issued under it, relevant to the activities or conduct of the Union.