March 16, 2012, by Paul Greatrix
Why Students’ Unions Matter
Students’ unions are important for many reasons
I’ve got a piece in the Times Higher Education about some of the reasons I think students’ unions are important:
Students’ unions have a long and distinctive history in UK higher education, but their character has changed significantly in the past decade.
While they have always been concerned with student representation and support, and with the extracurricular aspects of student life, they are now much more directly interested in – and increasingly involved in – the core issue of teaching and learning.
Following the lead of the National Union of Students, which has displayed a new willingness to work with the government, students unions’ have shifted from a position of general opposition to change (particularly on student finance) and campaigning on international policy matters (often combined with leftist posturing), to arguing for better libraries, improved IT, more class contact and improved feedback on assessed work.
When I was a student many years ago, student unionism was primarily concerned with fighting apartheid, denouncing Margaret Thatcher and supporting the miners. Debate was passionate and it all felt massively important, but unions rarely concerned themselves with day-to-day university life. How times have changed.
And the change is for the better. The full piece is available via Times Higher Education. (Thank you THE for asking me to do the piece.)