Question and answer with OUSU President Tom Rutland

Why is it, in your view, that OUSU plays an important role in the lives of Oxford students?

OUSU plays a hugely important role in the lives of Oxford students – it’s the only pan-university representational body for Oxford students. No one JCR or MCR could have successfully lobbied the University to introduce the most generous fee waiver and bursary package in the country, nor won Sunday opening hours for the Rad Cam. JCRs and MCRs do an incredible job in making student life better in their colleges – but we need a central student union to represent students to the university.

 

What successes has OUSU enjoyed over the past year?

‘This year, OUSU’s won access to university libraries and the counselling service for students who suspend study, OUSU RAG is on course for a record-breaking fundraising total, we’ve run HIV testing which was attended by over a hundred students, and we’re on the verge of a landmark budget settlement for next year after months of intense negotiations.

 

There seems to be a lack of communication between OUSU and JCRs, resulting in a general lack of awareness as to what OUSU does for students. How could OUSU raise its profile within colleges more successfully, in an effort to highlight the work OUSU does?

A lack of communication between OUSU and common rooms is a long-standing problem, and one we’re seeking to address by working more closely with more members of common room committees – such as the highly successful welfare rep forums run this term by our Vice-President for Welfare & Equal Opportunities, Charlotte. We’ve also just hired a Communications Officer to focus on engaging our more students in setting our priorities and strengthening our campaigns.

 

Why do you think the students of Oriel College recently chose to disaffiliate from OUSU? What would you say to encourage Oriel JCR, and the JCR at Trinity, to re-affiliate themselves with OUSU?

‘This year, OUSU’s won access to university libraries and the counselling service for students who suspend study, OUSU RAG is on course for a record-breaking fundraising total, we’ve run HIV testing which was attended by over a hundred students, and we’re on the verge of a landmark budget settlement for next year after months of intense negotiations.

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If your budget were to be increased to £1.6 million – making it roughly equivalent to that of the budgets of other Russell Group university student unions – what would you do with the extra million? Isn’t there less need for a large student union budget at Oxford due to the collegiate nature of the university?

A budget of the size of other student unions is what Oxford students deserve – it’d allow OUSU to provide better support for clubs and societies, to provide more funding to them and to our campaigns. It’d increase the staff base, which would in turn give officers the chance to get out and speak to more students, as well as improving their ability to take on more projects to improve the student experience in Oxford. Common Rooms play a crucial role in representing students to colleges – as I know from my time as Jesus JCR President – but we need a properly funded, central student union in order to changes things on a university-wide level.

 

And finally, what do you aim to achieve during the rest of your time as OUSU President?

Until I finish in June, I’ll be working closely with the rest of the officer team to make sure that OUSU is going from strength-to-strength for when our successors take over – drawing up a budget for next year, campaigning to stay a part of NUS in the upcoming referendum, and implementing a communications strategy to ensure that our members know what we’re up to, and how they can shape our work and priorities.