A number of you may be aware that the Students’ Union will relocate to the brand new Learning & Leisure Centre in January 2014. This project has been in the pipelines since March 2011, but we have now reached the stage where plans for the move have become finalised.
Over the past few days the plans have attracted significant attention from students – particularly on social media. Whilst we had planned to run a huge communications campaign on this issue immediately after Freshers’ Week (to make sure messages weren’t drowned out), it’s become very obvious that we need to start this process now.
So, we’ve produced an in-depth guide to what’s happening, that will hopefully answer any questions you might have about what’s going on.
Location: A Student Centre and Separate Students’ Union Building and services
This University-led project was planned to progress with or without the Students’ Union relocating. The development will create a new heart of campus with a range of services that students need. We think to stay where we are will lead to disjointed services for Students and a Students’ Union Building on the edge of campus life.
Lease: Eviction from the Big Brother House
The Students Union lease on current premises expired in July 2013 and has been renewed for a further 6 months. Consequently our security in our current location is at risk. The Board of Trustees noted that the University is our landlord, principal funder and wants us to be at the heart of the Student Centre.
Losses: the financial impact of the change
On average since 2008, bar, catering and entertainment have returned losses of £122,000 each year. By ceasing these operations we will be able to invest the savings into other priorities and activities for students, such as our clubs and societies, a new Give it a Go programme, trips, tours and entertainments arranged in different venues and locations. The establishment of the Student Centre would also inevitably mean a revitalised catering and lounge space for students competing with the Students’ Union. Consequently there is a real risk that these losses would grow.
Lifestyle changes: trends and our demographics
Some key issues include:
- The long term decline in licensed trade from pubs and clubs, with more and more people choosing to drink at home, socialise around food not solely drink.
- That Licensing reform has seen the development of late night offers (pubs and clubs operating to 3 or 4am). Initially this is a field of operation in which the Students’ Union does not feel it can responsibly compete (we feel this type of regular trade has an adverse impact on students welfare and academic progression). Moreover as a consequence of this less members access union services for early evening drinks. Further the viability of returning surpluses where services are open for longer hours with higher costs, but limited increase in total spend further increases the risks of losses
- Our student demographic: the majority of our students are from, and live in our local community, commuting to University and using services close to home. Many students socialise in their community around food, family and faith – not always in the Students’ Union.
Life in Huddersfield: Students use alternative providers
We’ve also considered whether ceasing to directly provide bar and catering services would significantly and adversely impact on the Huddersfield Student Experience. Some key issues are:
- There is a wide variety of bars and night time entertainment provided in Huddersfield, much of which is targeted at students and student friendly.
- That the Students’ Union offer is a relatively small part of the wider night time scene in Huddersfield, and that we do not have a monopoly on student bars and nights out.
- That the Students’ Union could engage in partnerships with a range of night time providers to secure great value and safe services for students.
- The Students’ Union bar has a maximum capacity of circa 400. With 20,000 students at Huddersfield, it is clear the vast majority of students are already voting with their feet and choosing alternative providers.
A note on student jobs The changes in our service profile mean that the Students’ Union will not employ as many Students in the direct delivery of our Bar, Catering and cleaning operations. We will continue to engage students in communications, retail and administrative roles and where we are able will redeploy team members. We will also continue our work with the University to secure student jobs across the University, but particularly in the Student Centre. This is an active priority for the Executive and Students’ Union staff team.
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