Nearly all higher and further education institutions have some sort of students’ union or association which supports students. Usually the smaller the institution is in terms of budget and student numbers, the smaller the union. The level of funding provided by the institution varies (see the resources page), as does the level of involvement, quality of relationship and collaborative working between the two organisations.
Many institutions offer very similar services to students to those provided by their union including careers advice, counselling and personal well being advice and representation. They also provide commercial operations such as catering and retail or may choose to contract out such services, thus becoming a competitor to the union or at least overlapping with the service range provided by the union.
There has been a general shift in approach and working relationship between unions and their institutions in recent years, towards a more partnered approach. This is often because of the role unions play in the “student experience” and the outcomes measured by Q23 of the National Student Survey. With a focus on effective use of resources, both organisations are often motivated to ensure there is no unnecessary overlap in service provision.
The common link person between the institution and the union might the Pro Vice Chancellor Student Experience, Registrar or Secretary but depending on the nature of work or project there is regular contact with Resources and Finance. There are often close working relationships at all levels through the teams within unions and their counterparts in the institution.