Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) has been ranked as the worst student union in the country for the second year running, in a student satisfaction survey published last week.
The annual National Student Survey, a high-profile annual census of nearly half a million students across the UK, ranks institutions for ‘student satisfaction’ in a number of areas.
Oxford’s student union was given a satisfaction rating of just 36%. This score was even lower than in last year’s survey, which saw OUSU come joint last with Oxford Brookes student union with 39%.
Tom Rutland, OUSU President, told Cherwell, “Clearly the result is disappointing, but it is unsurprising. This result is best understood by comparison with another. The Student Barometer Survey, which asks students the question of who has ‘used’ the Student Union, and then asks them of their satisfaction with it, delivered a 92% satisfaction rating in 2012.
“It is clear that when OUSU reaches students, it provides outstanding services and assistance to them. The problem is that most students aren’t reached by OUSU, hence the 40% of students who responded to the NSS saying they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with their Student Union.
“OUSU’s poor communication is a direct result of its lack of resources, but we’re working to change that with the hiring of a Communications Manager for the new academic year. Students elected me to sort this out, and they recognise that it’s about time this world-leading University provided its students with a world-leading student union, not one that comes bottom of league tables.”
However, the results have caused some students to again question the relevance of a central student union to the collegiate Oxford system.
One Brasenose student commented, “Whatever they do behind the scenes, I think the fact that Brasenose had a concrete bust run for OUSU President says a lot about students’ attitudes to the student union.”
Lincoln JCR President Rachel Jeal commented, “I think that whilst OUSU is an incredibly valuable resource at Oxford, it does play a very different role to that of most other universities as a result of the services provided by individual JCRs. Most of OUSU’s work is done in areas beyond that of normal student life, such as working with Oxford City Council and providing help and advice with rent negotiations.
“Therefore whilst it does not provide entertainment and social services in the same way that most Unions do, due to the independent Entz and Welfare teams that are so important in JCRs, on a wider platform it is an important forum for working with Oxford town and giving JCRs advice on some of the key decisions that need to be made throughout the year.”
However, some were more sympathetic. Queen’s JCR President Jane Cahill, “I think OUSU does a great job with the students it does have contact with, the problem is it doesn’t interact with a many students as it would like. It needs more money, it needs more space and I think as students we have a right to demand that from the university so that we can belong to colleges through our JCRs, and to Oxford University through our student union.”