Cambridge University is structured around undergraduate students and eight-week terms, and has failed to adapt to steady increases in numbers of postgraduate students. In terms of union representation: the GU was established in 1955, before four postgraduate colleges were founded, and now, as a small union, struggles to represent almost half of the Cambridge student body. Equally, CUSU is dominated by undergraduates and struggles to engage postgraduate students. As undergraduate and postgraduate student numbers have balanced, CUSU and the GU have worked more closely together, sharing staff and resources, and collaborating on campaigns. But both unions acknowledge that they struggle to represent postgraduate students effectively, either due to a lack of engagement or resourcing. Both unions also acknowledge that Cambridge students are represented by a wide range of people and places: in colleges, departments, faculties, and schools, as well as by students’ unions, which leads to a lack of clarity for students, about where to go to get help, representation, or to find a community.
Staff and Trustee Working Group:
This year, CUSU and the GU started a working group with the single aim of improving postgraduate representation. It was agreed that students are better represented when both unions work together, and our shared task was to collaborate to improve postgraduate representation. Our working group comprises sabbatical officers, staff, and trustees, feeding back to our trustee boards, and this group has assessed how we could improve representation together, and examined a range of options.
We are now exploring our shared preferred option, which we believe is most effective, provides most clarity for students, and provides equality of representation for undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Our preferred option was to explore one equally representative union. We think that structural change is needed to achieve cultural change, across the Colleges and the University, as well as with within our unions. As we work together to develop our plans, we hope you will help us as we work to provide fairly for students at Cambridge.
Following Council meetings of both Unions on Monday 13th May we will begin an initial two week period of student consultation. All members of both Councils will be asked to consult their constituents on the proposed plan.
They will be able to feed back their constituents’ views on the overall plan and specific elements through a google form. The responses from the Google Form will be collated and used to shape how the unions move forward. The consultation period will also include drop-in sessions in faculties, departments and colleges, in addition to focus groups which all students will be able to attend.
Following the two week consultation period which will end on the 24th May, the joint staff and trustee working group will come together to review the consultation responses. We will review whether there is sufficient appetite among the student body for us to continue exploring working more closely together and if so, will make changes to the proposal based on student feedback. We may also choose to continue further student consultation.
Please note, your college/ faculty reps will be gathering data to feedback to CUSU and the GU. If you are unsure of who your rep is that will be completing the consultation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are three suggested structures of what a new unions representative structures could look like. At this stage these are only proposals and everything is up for discussion.