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Funds set aside for employing students at the University have been frozen indefinitely and without warning, just two weeks after the University’s budget was approved.The Student Employment Fund (SEF) was created to provide Lancaster students with employment around the University through CV-enhancing projects. But the fund has now been frozen, pending review, with expectations that it will be permanently scrapped.
Although the fund is a University initiative, more than £23,000 of the the total £80,000 in the SEF went into to the Students’ Union to support projects and improve accessibility to services. Student staff, funded with SEF money, were employed in the LUSU Building, the Volunteering Unit (LUVU), and the student entrepreneur service, Create.
Student staff funded with the SEF have been used to provide extended opening hours for the LUSU Information Desk and for drop in centres in LUVU and Create. Without the SEF, LUVU staff will be rolled back to just those working full-time. Due to the nature of the work, the offices will be unable to stay open all day as staff have to go off-site to work on projects, meaning that some students wishing to get involved in the volunteering unit will be unable to access the office to sign up. Similar limitations will affect the ability of Create to offer support to student entrepreneurs.
The employment fund was also used during last year’s accomodation crisis, where first year students were forced to live in town by a University residence blunder. Student staff employed by the Union with SEF money provided tours of student houses in town to prospective students with nowhere to live. In intro week, staff were also used to provide support to off-campus students.
LUSU President, Michael Payne said: “The student employment fund allows for the provision of vital services within the Union, which enable key advice and a first port of call for all students after hours and at weekends.
“The University’s temporary freezing of this fund is detrimental to these services and after talks with the Director of Finance we sincerely hope this issue will be resolved and that the long-term review will recognise the significance of the fund and have it reinstated.”