September 4, 2020, by Issy

What is the Students’ Union?

The Students’ Union – it’s a term you may have heard thrown around when applying for university, on open days, looking on websites, but what, and who, exactly is the SU, and what does it mean for you as a University of Nottingham student?


Every year, a new set of officers are elected to represent the student body, and all the diversity that comes with having tens of thousands of students enrolled at the university. The roles were changed for 2020-21 and are as follows:

Full time Officers – these officers take a year out from their studies to hold this role.

  • Union Development Officer
  • Sports Officer
  • Welfare and Wellbeing Officer
  • Activities Officer
  • Liberation Officer
  • Education Officer
  • Postgraduate Officer
  • Community Officer

Part time officers – these officers carry out the duties of these roles alongside their studies. Aside from ESJ, these officers lead groups which students may self-define as being part of (ESJ – anyone can join)

  • International Students’ Officer
  • Disabled Students’ Officer
  • Black and Minority Ethnic Students’ Officer
  • Women*’s Officer
  • Environment and Social Justice Officer
  • LGBT+ Officer
  • Mature Students’ Officer

Any student can run for one of these roles during the election period each year – it’s highly competitive and consists of a full week of campaigning around campus – with campaign groups often ‘branded’ with custom T-shirt’s and slogans to encourage people to vote for them!


Many of the Officers lead groups, focusing on something that is integral to university student life, or as mentioned above, bring together those who self-define as part of a minority group. The networks are:

  • Welfare Network
  • Environment and Social Justice Network
  • Postgraduate Students’ Network
  • Education Network
  • LGBT+ Network
  • Mature Students’ Network
  • Black and Minority Ethnic Students’ Network
  • Disabled Students’ Network
  • International Students’ Network
  • Women*’s Network

It’s really easy to get involved in these networks. Many of them have committees which elect students to the various positions, others hold events – for instance the Welfare network often hosts casual relaxed meetings in the Portland Coffee Co. for more people to meet each other who may have similar interests.
Personally, as I self-identify as having a [mental health] disability – I am a member of the Disabled Students Network – last year I wrote a blog post on how important Sunflower Lanyards are to us within the network, to help increase accessibility for people like me. I also have played an active role within the Education Network since my first year at university – as a Course Rep in my 1st year, and Education Rep in my 2nd, 3rd and 4th year so far. I have loved the opportunity to make active change for my peers within these roles, and it’s so crucial to university life that some reps are recognised for their achievements each year… something to add to the CV!


One of the biggest parts of any Student Union are the societies on offer to get involved with. At UoN we are so lucky to have over 200 societies, and 70+ sports clubs. The societies range from course-related societies, to cultural/ethnic/religious societies, to hobbies and interests – the list goes on! It’ll be hard to find a student who does all of the exact same societies that you do – highlighting how unique every individual is here at UoN!

Personally, I am part of the following societies:

  • MedSoc – I was Welfare Officer in 2019-20, being there for all the students in the Medicine a course should they have any welfare needs or worries, as well as running a whole week around promoting good mental health within our course
  • Welfare in Sport – I am Chair of this society this year – I’m really excited to try and further improve mental health provision within our UoN Sport clubs.
  • HeartStart – this year I am Vice President of this society – we teach CPR and basic life saving skills to children in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. We aren’t sure how it will work this year but we are planning to be as adaptable as possible with our limitations!
  • Sailing – I have sailed since I was 10, so it was important for me to keep it up at university. I do it more for enjoyment than the competition aspect of it, and it’s one of my favourite things about uni life – the friends I’ve made are second to none.

As you can see, I’m the sort of person who loves to get as involved as possible in my societies and have been on/am on committee for most of them – the opportunity is there for any member to run for positions on committee every year but of course, you don’t have to!


The SU, although led by a student team of officers, also employs staff members to support students who may be going through a tough time at University. There is a Welfare Team who may signpost students to the most appropriate support for their situation. UONSU Advice can help support students with issues such as Housing and accommodation, academic issues, and many more. There is also the Events team, supporting students to put on events within their societies, the Volunteering hub who put interested students in contact with organisations who can offer volunteer opportunities, and the Employability hub who can support students to make the most of their degree after they graduate. All the support available can be seen on the SU website. 

And, the best thing about the SU? You’re automatically a member from the minute you enrol at the University to your graduation. Based in the Portland Building on University Park Campus, it’s a central point for your life as a university student, and provides opportunities for you to diversify, enhance and make your university experience your own.

Posted in Issy