Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

University of Southampton Students' Union

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Chief Executive
Scott McCarthy

Alex Hovden

Parent organization
University of Southampton

Aldwych Group

+44 23 8059 5200

Date founded

Number of members
22,269 (2011–2012)

University of Southampton Students' Union

University of Southampton

Building 42, University of Southampton, University Road, Southampton, SO17 1BJ

Vice presidents
Flora Noble (Student Communities) Cameron Meldrum (Democracy & Creative Industries) Elliot Grater (Education) Dan Varley (Engagement) Tom Provan (Sports Development) David Allwright (Welfare)

University Rd, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK


The University of Southampton Students' Union, branded as Union Southampton and stylised as Us., is the students' union at the University of Southampton in southern England, United Kingdom. Union Southampton represents the students at the University council as well as providing support and social activities. The union is financed through its operations, a grant from the University and additional benefits brought by its charitable status.


Its main facilities are based on the main Highfield Campus, but the union also operates a presence at the Winchester School of Art and helps student societies and groups at the other campuses of the University. All students at the University become members of the union automatically unless they specifically request to opt out. Its operation is enshrined in law through the Education Act 1994, the University Charter granted in 1952 and the Union's constitution.


The origins of the union lie in the original union that represented the students of the Hartley University College, the precursor to the current University, when it became affiliated to the University of London in 1903. It became self-governed by students in 1921 with the introduction of the basic structure of one male and female member from each faculty. The Union expanded greatly following the granting of the Universities Charter in 1952 and the subsequent expansion of the university in both student numbers and outlook, leading to the creation of several union facilities and services.

For a sizable length of its existence, the union was associated with the National Union of Students (NUS), however in May 2002 the union chose to disaffiliate itself from the NUS on the grounds that the organisation was becoming too bureaucratic. This decision was put to a referendum in December 2010 and again in December 2012 to whether the union should re-affiliate with the NUS, following a perceived change in the organisation and in circumstances, and on both occasions the result was that the union would remain independent with the 2010 result totalling 67% against the affiliation, and 73% against it in 2012.

Governance and zones

The Union's highest decision making body is the Union Senate. Meeting at least 3 times a year, it is made up of 23 voting members, including the sabbatical officers, zone representatives and senators that represent the diversity of the university. Any student is able to attend and speak at a Union Senate, although not to vote, and any student is able to vote in the AGM and Open Council, held each year in the summer.

In addition to Senate, the Union also has Zones, that reflect the areas of the Union's work. There are eight zones in total: three policy zones and five activity zones. The Policy zones focus around the entire union activities and are Democracy, Sustainability and Student Communities, whereas the Activity zones focus on the individual activities that make up life at the university and within the union. These are Creative Industries, Education, External Engagement, Sport and Student Life.

To ensure the union achieves its charitable aims, it has a number of trustees who ensure that this occurs. The union also has to adhere to a strict set of Memorandum and Articles of Association and the Union's twelve 'rules' that form the equivalent of a constitution.

Sabbatical officers

Union Southampton is currently led by seven Full-time officers: one president and six vice-presidents, each covering a particular area of the union's activity. They are elected in February or March each year by any full member of the union (all students automatically unless they specifically opt out). The current team will be in office until 30th June 2017, and is currently composed of:

  • Alex Hovden – Union President
  • Cameron Meldrum – Vice-President Democracy and Creative Industries
  • Elliot Grater – Vice-President Education
  • Dan Varley – Vice-President Engagement
  • Tom Provan – Vice-President Sports Development
  • Flora Noble – Vice-President Student Communities
  • David Allwright – Vice-President Welfare
  • The Union President represents the students on general issues and is the figurehead of the union while the vice-presidents are all allocated a separate area to concentrate their efforts. The VP Democracy and Creative Industries overlooks the elections and accountability aspects of the union as well as running the Media departments, Union Films and the Performing Arts societies. The VP Education concentrates on the quality of the University's teaching and learning facilities. The VP Engagement is tasked with charitable activities, community involvement, student enterprise and communication between the Union and the students. The VP Sports Development is in charge of the Athletic Union and encouraging student involvement in sport. The VP Student Communities is in charge of the Athletic Union and encouraging student involvement in sport. The VP Welfare is in charge of ensuring equality and diversity is championed, the Union is ethical and environmentally friendly as well as in charge of general student welfare and access to advice.

    Student Leaders

    In addition to the sabbatical officers, there are also student leaders who represent the creative outlets, particular student activities or a particular group of students. As of September 2016 these are:


    The union's student officers are supported by a team of around 100 core staff. In addition to this there are around 300 support staff roles, several of which are filled by current students at the university. The staff are tasked with ensuring the policies passed at Union Council are fulfilled and that the day-to-day operations of the union are fulfilled. The staff are scrutinised by the Trustee Board, composed of six Sabbatical trustees, six student trustees (including the Equality and Diversity officer and the Ethical and Environmental officer) and four external trustees.

    They are led by the Chief Executive of the Union, Scott McCarthy, who joined Union Southampton in Autumn 2014 from a background in sports.


    Union Southampton has a range of facilities located on the Highfield campus and on the Winchester School of Art campus. The Union's Highfield buildings are arranged around a central plaza, named after the red brick paving of the area. It is frequently used by the Union to host events, for fundraising events and to hold the weekly market.

    The main Union building, Building 42, was constructed in 1966 and was designed by Sir Basil Spence as part of his campus masterplan. Spread over four levels, it contains 'The Café' and 'The Bridge' restaurants, the latter also a cocktail bar, as well as the offices of the Sabbaticals and sports facilities. The building was also extensively renovated in 2002 leading to the creation of two new Bars and 'The Cube' multi-functional space that can either be used as a nightclub or as a cinema through retractable seating. The Union building has undergone progressive renovation in recent years: the Cafe was overhauled in 2009, the concourse entrance was completely renovated during Summer 2011, the Bridge bar in Summer 2012 and an American Style Diner created on Bar Three in 2014.

    In addition to the main building, the Union also has part use of the 1940 constructed West Building. Also known as Building 40, this originally held all of the Union's activities until the construction of the current Union. At present the building hosts the pub 'The Stags Head', often shortened to the Stags, as well as a new societies hub and home to the Advice Centre. . The final building at Highfield is the 1996 built Union retail centre, containing the Union shop on the ground floor, the Union-run 'Shop on Top' clothing and gift shop above alongside a hairdressers and the Uni-link travel centre.

    The Union also has a presence at the Winchester School of Art campus in the form of a permanent Winchester Manager and a space in the WSA Cafe that is shared with the University.

    Union and Student groups

    The Union plays a major role in the social activity of the students from the University. The organisations and societies it supports are a key part of this. The union supports (as of March 2015) 310 societies at the university and allows anyone to create a new society if there is not provision for that group. It also supports 78 sports teams through its Athletic Union branch and 31 Performing Arts societies grouped under this umbrella brand. The Union also supports a RAG (Raise and Give) society to raise money for local and national charities, operates Community Volunteering and Action programmes and has a Nightline service for distressed or worried students.


    The union operates four media outlets as Union groups. They are all student-led.

  • The Wessex Scene is a student magazine published eight- twelve times a year and kept updated through their online website. Starting out in 1936 as the Wessex News and renamed in 1996, the newspaper continues to gain writers and has had articles showcased in the national press. They are a founder member of the Student Publication Association. They are the main media outlet at the University and are very prestigious in the student journalism community, being named "best media outlet" at the University of Southampton and winning dozens of national awards every year - including Guardian Student Media Awards and Student Publication Association Awards.
  • Surge Radio broadcasts from studios inside the main Union building over the internet and on FM during key dates in the year such as during Freshers' week and the Union Elections. Created in 1976, it has won multiple awards including 11 Gong awards.
  • Internet television station SUSUtv broadcasts a wide range of programmes live and on demand through their website. Started in 2007 and broadcasting in HD three years later, the service has been awarded several student level awards for their broadcasting achievements.
  • The Edge entertainment magazine began life as an insert of the Wessex Scene in 1995 before growing to become a full publication and online presence in 2011. The magazine contains reviews of films, music and theatre as well as interviews with celebrities from the film and music world.
  • Cinema

    The Union contains a 300-seat cinema in the 2002 extension to the Union which is run by student-led union group Union Films. Staffed completely by student volunteers, Union Films operates the setting up the cinema, selling of refreshments, publicising events and projecting the films. The group is equipped with 35mm and DCI projection capabilities allowing them to screen films in 3D.

    Performing Arts

    The Performing Arts brand is used to represent the 31 societies that include music, dance and drama in their remit. They share a common representative Student Leader and committee and often share their own individual society branding with that of the Performing Arts umbrella brand. The brand is also used for ticketing with a Performing Arts pass available to get students into performances by any of the societies. In addition to the performance aspect, the brand also includes StageSoc, who operate back-stage and with the technical services department.

    The Union does not have any designated Performing Arts space on campus with the acting societies primarily using The Annex theatre complex, which double as lecture theatres during the day. Performances occasionally occur in the University run and Arts Council supported Nuffield Theatre for a single prestige performance each year or the Turner Sims Concert Hall venue.

    Halls Committees

    In addition to these societies, the union also operates Halls committees for their halls. They are there to help new students settle into the university experience, run events throughout the year and also to represent a particular halls. Due to the size of some halls, Halls of residence are often grouped together under the following committees:

  • Monte – Montefiore Halls, Wessex Lane Complex
  • Connaught – Connaught Halls, Wessex Lane Complex
  • Glen Eyre – All halls on the main Glen Eyre Halls complex
  • Chamberlain – The Halls opposite the Glen Eyre complex. Despite the name, the Chamberlain hall is currently demolished for rebuilding.
  • Archers Road – For Romero, Gateley and St. Margarets Halls.
  • Bencraft Court – The smallest halls for Southampton University, next to Southampton Crematorium.
  • City Gateway – The newest halls, located near Wessex Lane.
  • Highfield – Near to Avenue Campus.
  • Erasmus Park – For Winchester School of Art students
  • Liberty Point – Not owned by the University, but is established due to the agreement between the University and the Halls' owners and the number of students living there.
  • Mayflower – The hall complex in the city centre.
  • Private Rented – Representation and socials for those not in Halls.
  • Sports

    The Union supports both the Athletic Union and Intra-Mural leagues at the University. The AU comprises over 90 sports teams at the university as well as providing them with access to union minibuses and subsidised 'Team Southampton' sports wear. The teams use both University facilities at Wide Lane, the Jubilee Sports Hall and the boating hard, but also the Union's own sports hall, squash courts, martial arts room and rock climbing wall. Societies compete in national British Universities and Colleges Sport tournaments and in the annual Varsity cup match between the University of Southampton and the University of Portsmouth.


    For much of its history, the union has used the abbreviation SUSU as its name, short for Southampton University Students' Union. This was changed in May 2016 to the present branding of Union Southampton, often stylised as Us..

    In 2016, the Union spent £29,000 on a rebrand, including money towards a consultancy fee to Holden's Agency to facilitate the change to Union Southampton. The rebrand was described as 'corporate' and 'unfeeling'. It was revealed that 9.6% of the 3000 respondents disliked the existing name 'SUSU', while 49.9% were indifferent. A petition was established on with over 1,700 signatories aiming to "Reverse SUSU's Rebrand".

    In the Autumn term of 2016, after a successful petition on the Union website, an All Student Vote took place to gain insight into student opinion on the brand. Two votes were ran:

  • Do you prefer the name SUSU or Union Southampton (Us.)?
  • - SUSU - Union Southampton (Us.)
  • Do you prefer the old SUSU branding or the new Us. Branding?
  • - Old SUSU branding - New Us. branding

    With a turnout of 4831, students voted in favour of the name SUSU (by 3328 to 1407 votes) and the new Union Southampton branding (by 2557 to 2154 votes). The Union is currently making plans about how to implement this result.


    University of Southampton Students' Union Wikipedia

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