JCR funding increase at expense of GSA in LUSU budget

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JCR execs are the big winners in LUSU’s 2010-11 budget, with a 24% increase in funding for colleges. However, the Graduate Student Association will see a cut of over £6000, the largest reduction.

LUSU President Michael Payne working on consitution

The budget, which has recently been passed by Union Council, shows an expected £131,000 increase in spending for LUSU, due in part to the creation of three new job positions within the Union, and a £30,000 contribution to Lancaster University Volunteering Unit.

The three new jobs created are a Representation and Research Co-ordinator, aiming to support the Union’s academic campaigning, a Postgraduate and International Student Intern, helping to provide the much discussed additional support those two groups require, and a Media and Communications Intern who is expected to further development of the Union’s website.

A further £6000 has also been provided for international and postgraduate student support, in addition to the creation of the intern position.

The JCR funding increase has arisen due to the creation of a new funding model for them. In the past, 27% of the funding available for JCRs has been given to the GSA, with the remaining £39,500 divided between the other colleges based on the number of students it has. This had resulted in different colleges receiving significantly varied funds and suggestions of the GSA not spending all of its allocation.

The reduction in GSA funding is the most contentious point of the budget, although the creation of the Postgraduate and International Student Intern role as well as the increase in direct student support to these groups can be seen as the counterpoint to this.

Robin Hughes, GSA president and LUSU VP Academic Affairs-elect, said that he felt the JCRs will benefit from the changes, while the GSA will have to adapt.

“The review represents positive changes for the JCRs; this increase in funding will translate into a great improvement for JCR execs to be able to provide events and services to their colleges,” he said, going on to suggest that LUSU is using the funding changes to become more responsible for Postgraduates.

“The alteration in funding to the GSA budget will indeed change the way the GSA runs, but I have been made confident that there will be no negative impact felt by Postgraduates. Instead, I believe the reallocation of funding is a sign of the Students’ Union stepping up to take some of the burden centrally that has long been outsourced to the GSA. I hope that this represents a sustained commitment to Postgraduates’ provision, freeing up the GSA to be an effective delivery agent within the Graduate College.”

The new system will see JCRs receive exactly the same amount of money, resulting in every college but Graduate seeing an increase in funding.

Michael Payne, the outgoing LUSU president, said he believes “crucial” issues that can be addressed by the funding increase include “college magazines, welfare provision and capacity to campaign on local issues.” He added that “it is also important to remove duplication of services where it may exist between the Students’ Union centrally and its respective JCR Execs. The social experience is also a vital part of the student experience and we will continue to take a responsible and sensible approach to provide the best possible social activities for all students.”

As a result, the aim appears to be on equipment and services for students while providing JCRs with a new level of stability and resilience in an uncertain economic climate, as opposed to funding more socials.

He also defended the changes to the GSA’s funding, saying “it is important that LUSU does not, as it has done in the past, simply rely on the Postgraduate Students’ Association to tackle the strategic issues facing Postgraduates. The Students’ Union is here for all; to represent and provide services for all and should continue to do so. We will continue to ensure that Postgraduates and International students are fully integrated into all LUSU activities.”

The changes have been welcome by JCR presidents. Matthew Power, president of Lonsdale College’s JCR exec, said he was “delighted” by the changes to the system. “The collegiate system at our University is one of the key marketing points for prospective students and as such, the JCR executives play a fundamental role in the delivery of a wide range of activities; but this comes at a cost.  I feel that the new increase in funding for JCRs is exceptionally important to the future of our colleges and it has come at an excellent time.”

Power did accept that that the increase in funding for JCRs has come at the expense of the GSA, but said he felt that “the Union budget has made a commitment to make a specific provision to provide direct support to Postgraduates.”

Lancaster University Volunteering Unit is another beneficiary in the budget with a substantial funding increase of £30,000. The Students’ Union has never contributed directly to LUVU’s activities until now. This contribution is, however, dependent on the University maintaining a similar stance on LUVU’s funding and is subject to change. Payne spoke at Union Council of “[LUSU’s] engagement in opportunities with students in terms of volunteering” as a key selling point of the Union and added that it is essential this is developed.

The opportunities provided by LUVU, GreenLancaster, and Create will all benefit from the funding, with the three organisations expected to be integrated financially. “The £30,000 contribution to LUVU sits alongside a very helpful and appreciated review of the financial model for LUVU and Create by the University,” said Payne. “This review has ensured that the Students’ Union has control over the direction of projects we deliver in these areas; always ensuring they are what students want, that they provide excellent, inspiring and worthwhile opportunities for Lancaster students and pupils we work with, but most of all ensuring that LUSU continues to support the University’s strategic aspirations.”

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